On Wednesday, February 15th, First Focus on Children and The Education Trust hosted a webinar to educate on struggles that may arise with the reauthorization of the FARM Bill this year. Katie Bergh, Senior Policy Analyst for the Food Assistance Team at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, spoke about her previous experience with the Senate Agriculture Committee and drafting the 2018 FARM Bill. The FARM Bill is a five year bill that was last passed in 2018 and is up for reauthorization this year.
The FARM Bill is expensive, consisting mainly of mandatory spending. With the 2018 bill, the Congressional Budget Office estimated around $867 billion in mandatory spending over the next ten years. Title IV of the FARM bill is Nutrition, which includes the entirety of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Advocates, like CWLA, are interested in SNAP because it is the largest anti-hunger program in the United States, helping roughly 1 in 4 children have an adequate diet. SNAP makes up about 80% of the mandatory spending included in the FARM bill.
The 2018 FARM Bill was budget neutral, offsetting all spending with cuts in other places. Bergh highlighted specific concerns surrounding SNAP benefits in the debates to come, especially with the debt ceiling being reached and the subsequent budget cuts expected. In 2018, there were harmful proposals like creating stricter work requirements and returning the Thrifty Food Plan to its original dollar amount, calculated around 40 years ago. Similar proposals are expected to be made this Congress, and advocates are encouraged to direct their efforts towards the Committee on Agriculture in both the Senate and the House.
Bergh mentioned not just defending existing benefits, but also asking for more adequacy, accessibility, and better customer service. Bergh emphasized that taking food from parents is taking food from children, and ultimately leaves everyone worse off.
By Maya Benysh, Policy Intern