Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Food and Farms Coalition Call Out

One of the major pieces of legislation that will be on the docket in 2018 is the Farm Bill, a comprehensive, multi-year law that governs the agricultural and food programs that undergird our entire food system. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and will be instrumental in drafting a Farm Bill that works for all Hoosiers. We appreciate that Joe Donnelly took the time to meet with emergency food providers in Lafayette this November, as part of his listening tour of Indiana concerning the 2018 Farm Bill. During this listening session, we spoke about the fundamental need for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in Indiana, where food insecurity is still increasing.

On December 5th, Senator Donnelly sent a message recapping his takeaway from this tour. In this email, he stated support for a host of commodity agriculture programs, biofuels and rural community investments, but nowhere did the Senator mention SNAP, or family farms. These are notable omissions; SNAP makes up about 80% of the Farm Bill funding and Indiana has over 40,000 small farms, which are struggling to make ends meet while bringing nutritious food to our communities.

SNAP is in real trouble in this political climate. The tax bill that recently passed will increase the federal deficit drastically, and republican lawmakers have stated that they are now looking to create substantial budget cuts in coming years to social safety net programs, including SNAP, in order to address this shortfall. SNAP cuts would be devastating to local economies, and to the 1 in 8 Hoosiers that depend on SNAP to eat. Nearly 75% of SNAP benefits go to households with children or someone with a disability. These children require healthy food to learn and develop into productive citizens and SNAP is by far the most efficient tool that we have to fight hunger in the US. Food Banks and private charities can only provide 5% of the groceries that hungry Americans need. Government nutrition programs provide the rest.

We need to work with Senator Donnelly to shape a Farm Bill that supports the small farmers and sustainable farming practices that are vital to local food security in Indiana, and to the health of our rural communities. The Center for Disease Control finds that farmers and agricultural workers are 5 times more likely than other kinds of American workers to commit suicide. The rural communities that depend on the health of small farms are suffering. These communities instead need a Farm Bill that prioritizes the success of diversified family farms, the needs of agricultural workers and the health of the land itself. They also need the localized economic boost that SNAP spending creates. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, every $5 of SNAP benefits spent generates $9 of localized economic activity. Decreasing SNAP spending in Indiana will further depress the economies of Indiana towns.

At the Hub, we know that our entire community is affected by the food industry; as workers, as eaters, as food stamp recipients. That's why we can't ignore the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill. So, we are launching the Food and Farms Coalition (FFC) to organize for a smart Farm Bill. The FFC includes the Hub's Advocacy Working Group and Hoosier Action, working together with small farmers, SNAP recipients and those concerned about the food system. We need to make sure that the Senate hears the voices of Hoosiers too long ignored. If this includes you, join us on Tuesday, January 9th at 6:30pm at Sacred Heart Church, 615 N Fairview St. to build power!

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