The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Farm Bill Is an Imperfect Compromise, as All Bipartisan Compromises Will Be--January, 2014

Posted on January 28, 2014 at 05:39 PM

Most Delta Grassroots Caucus partners see the farm bill as an imperfect compromise that is likely to be the best deal available in this environment of divided government. The Caucus disagreed with cuts of approximately $8.6 billion over 10 years in the SNAP program but acknowledge that this is over $30 billion better than the House version, and the agriculture provisions contain pluses for the region’s farm sector.

As always, there is a range of opinion on this issue. We want to respect all points of view, and there are organizations and individuals who would take a different position. One crucial consideration is that multiple sources on Capitol Hill have informed us that if this conference report is rejected, there could be legislation that is far worse, or even no farm bill at all.

“The majority of our partners would have preferred no cuts at all to the SNAP program, which is a vital safety net against hunger and helps create jobs. The rejection of the extreme $40 billion cuts and coming much closer to the Senate level of $4 billion in cuts was likely the best deal we could get in this budget-cutting environment, and the agriculture provisions contained some pluses,” said Caucus Director Lee Powell.

“If we don’t get this compromise we could wind up with something much worse or no farm bill at all. They’ve been wrangling over this for two years and it’s time to resolve this,” Powell said.

State Rep. Mark McElroy, Caucus vice chairman, said “We’re not 100% happy with this but it’s probably the best deal we could get under the circumstances. I’d rather have a farm bill with flaws in it than none at all.”

Among the key Members of Congress developing the bipartisan compromise were Sen. Mark Pryor, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture (D-AR), Sen. John Boozman–a conferee on the farm bill (R-AR), and Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR), a conferee on the farm bill; and others across the Greater Delta Region.

For agriculture, the bill moves from the subsidies model to a risk management model, where farmers have to incur losses before getting government payments. It contains greater funding for the national crop insurance program and payments for cotton and rice should be substantial.

Harvey Joe Sanner, one of the Caucus’ senior advisers and president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, said the SNAP program is good for agriculture and helps many people struggling in the Delta’s distressed economy. He said both the agriculture and SNAP provisions could have been better, but “After two years of partisan fights at this stage we need to grin and bear it, move on and try to correct the problems later on.”

Powell said it is vital to inform the public about the great importance of the SNAP program, especially in Arkansas, which according to USDA data suffered from the worst severe food insecurity in the country at 8.1% and the second worst overall food insecurity at 19.7%. Across the Delta region, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama joined Arkansas and Mississippi with 7 out of the 11 worst food insecurity levels in America.

SNAP spending is high because the economy has been suffering for so long, and the fundamental way to reduce SNAP costs is to create many more decent-paying jobs.

On some other nutrition programs, the farm bill has some positive provisions, such as increase in funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) that aids food banks, farmers’ market programs, improved SNAP education and training programs, and the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. These are good but much smaller than SNAP.


–68% of families with children suffering from food insecurity had at least one employed family member.

–Conservative estimates are that the number of children receiving SNAP is about 40%, while the Food Research and Action Center calculates that nearly half of SNAP enrollees are children.

–SNAP creates about 17,900 jobs for each $1 billion in spending, according to the Joint Congressional Economic Committee.

–Moody’s Analytics reports that every dollar spent on SNAP increases Gross Domestic Product by $1.73 to $1.79.

–SNAP benefits are very small as it is–averaging about $4.50 a day. The vast majority of SNAP enrollees either have low-paying jobs or would love to have a job, and would not wish to remain unemployed or under-employed to obtain $4.50 a day.

–92% of SNAP recipients do NOT receive welfare, and only 8% do.

–Waste and abuse in SNAP have been reduced from 4% in the 1990s down to slightly over 1% today. Any waste is bad but it is in fact much more efficient than most huge government programs.

–SNAP cuts make diabetes problems worse: according to the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnston Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts, $40 billion in cuts over 10 years would increase medical costs for diabetes nationwide by $15 billion–again pointing out the relief that the extreme figure was rejected. But the lower costs will be harmful to the diabetes problem in the Delta, which already suffers from alarmingly high rates of diabetes.