The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, commonly known as the "Farm Bill", is the primary form of legislation presented every five years by the United States Department of Agriculture. This piece of legislation deals with various subjects such as: commodity programs, trade, rural development, farm credit, conservation agricultural research, marketing, and food and nutrition programs. As part of its involvement with the various food and nutrition programs that are pertinent to this nation, a great part of the Farm Bill deals with the Food Stamp program, and it determines how this program must be amended and reformed to provide efficient and high quality services to its recipients. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of Farm Bill spending is destined towards maintaining the Food Stamps program.
The last Farm Bill was passed in 2008 and it is set to expire in 2012. As part of our mission and interest to keep the community well informed and up to date on current and relevant issues, it is of great importance to understand some of the major points presented in the current verison of the Farm Bill; and how these new regulations will have an impact on the lives of millions of people who receive Food Stamps Benefits (or as they are now known, SNAP Benefits).
Faced with difficult economic times of the last few years, the federal government has been forced to make various cuts in the budgets of a wide variety of social programs. Following this unfortunate trend, the current verison of the 2012 Farm Bill is set to slash $16.1 billion from food assistance programs over the next ten years. This cut will not only affect those who receive SNAP benefits; but will also have a highly negative impact on the lives of 30 million public school children who rely on school-provided meals.
To further understand the implications of such a drastic cut in the budget of food assistance programs, it is detrimental to evaluate the social and economical impact of such a radical measure. It is estimated that 45 million Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) every year; and that number has increased since the country fell in recession back in 2007. It is also anticipated that about 75% of SNAP recipients are families with children, and almost 25% of the total number of participating households have a senior citizen or a disabled individual under their roof. Taking this statistics into consideration it is also very important to understand that the proposed cuts will cause two or three million of SNAP recipients to completely loose their benefits, the rest of the remaining families to experience a substantial decrease in their monthly allowances, and an estimated 300,000 kids would not be able to receive free or reduced lunches.
Taking all of these factors into consideration and in an effort to educate the general public and exhort our legislators to take a closer look at the impact of cutting the budget for SNAP and other food assistance programs, United Way of Greenville County has come up with a highly informative and helpful brief in which some of the major ecomonic and social aspects this issue are outlined. In reference to the economic aspect it is established that "receiving SNAP benefits lifted 3.9 million Americans over the poverty line" in the same manner, "after the raise of SNAP benefits in 2009, food insecurity rates decreased and it was concluded that receiving such financial help could greatly reduce the uncertainty of being able to regularly access adequate food for many families". These facts illustrate the idea that providing economic assistance makes monetary sense, as it contributes to the formation of a more stable and secure society in which it's member can feel protected and are willing and able to work towards improving their living conditions.
When it comes to evaluating the social implications of SNAP benefits it is evident that these cuts directly threaten the physical and emotional wellbeing of millions of American kids. As shown by a wide number of scientific studies, and as presented by the efforts of United Way of Greenville County, "poor nutritional has harmful effects on cognitive abilities" and "food depravation significantly increases the likihood that a child will experience anxiety and chronic illness". It is understandable that the federal government is not in the strongest financial position, but denying millions of kids the right to a proper and constant nutrition is certainly not the answer. It is important to always understand that children are the future of this country, and taking care of their proper social, physical, and psychologial development must be a top priority in the political agenda of this nation.
It is no secret that the financial and social help that millions of Americans receive from the federal government more than being essential to their daily lives, it is neccessary for their survival. Although it is understandable that our nation is currently faced with a difficult economic situation, it is fundamental to comprehend that abandoning those in need and depriving them of federal assistance will only bring more issues and complications in the long run. It is in this sense, that it is our desire to encourage the general public and the legislators to take a stand and try to work together for the betterment and sustainability of our society.