The GOP-led House passed a Farm Bill that took food stamps out of the picture. The Republicans want to take up food stamps in a separate bill. Later.
Liberals and progressives don't like this move because they fear what will happen to food stamps if dealt with separately. Their fears are justified about the potential loss of food stamps.
We've had more consecutive bad Farm Bills than the Pittsburgh Pirates have had losing seasons (20 straight years). The Pirates have an extremely good chance at ending that string in 2013. Farm Bill? Not so much.
Splitting the Farm Bill and separating out the elements can start a desperately needed dialogue about the American farm and food strategy.
We need to stop having pretend conversations about Cadillac welfare queens and iPod wearing people laughing about using food stamps. We need to start having real conversations about the 80% of people on food stamps who are working, and finding out more about the 20% who aren't able to work who are getting help.
Separating food stamps from the Farm Bill is a dangerous risk to food stamps. But the split might get us to start having a real conversation about food help.
Speaking of pretend conversations, we hear that the Farm Bill subsidizes regular farmers in case their crops don't do as well as expected. The vast majority of this part of the Farm Bill goes to "farmers" who have plenty, many of whom are getting paid not to grow. We are also paying farmers who are farming to grow tons of corn and soybeans (most of which is GMO), most of which we don't need and is doing damage to our soil.
We're told that supporting food stamps raises the deficit and produces dependency. Well, the reality of helping those who don't need help is they get more help and get the money for longer, so they are more dependent.
So we like the idea of paying farmers, but not the kind of paying that struggling farmers really could use.
Conservatives hate food stamps with a unnatural zeal. Even when they're told that food stamps have a small margin of abuse (much less than subsidies for the rich farmers) or that food stamps help out the community by encouraging direct spending, they don't care.
They are upset at President Barack Obama because more people are on food assistance than when the last guy was in charge. There are two good reasons: 1) the crash of the economy (caused by their actions) and 2) trying to offer assistance to those who need it. But again, facts can't slow down their anger toward food stamps.
Food stamps get bashed because they are invisible yet when you see the results, they make a better community for such a small investment.
So we have a pool of money, some for farmers and some for those who eat food. We want to spend the money wisely but still help those who want a better food process. We want liberals to be happy, but conservatives too, if they can be happy.
-- We give money to farmers, but actual real farmers who are doing the right thing, but are struggling.
-- Some of that money comes through vouchers for those people who need food assistance to spend in farmers markets, CSAs, or other direct methods to farmers. We have to spend money (short-term) to educate people that they can use this option.
-- For this part of the food stamps program, we haven't given a cent to the poor people, but we have given money to the farmers. The farmers who really need help. And we haven't given any money directly to the farmers, so far.
Local small farmers are happier since they are getting help in the best way: getting money for their crop. No paying farmers not to farm, but them getting money for farming.
Those on food assistance who have access to farmers markets can get great produce to supplement their food supply.
A strong system that matches the two parties together doesn't involve huge amounts of red tape or bureaucracy. The exchange of food and vouchers is all done on a local level and keeps money within the community.
In some areas, people receiving food assistance can get food at farmers markets, but some seed money (pun intended) would jumpstart that to a much broader level.
This suggestion only solves a portion of the food problem in this country. Some don't have easy access to farmers or farmers markets and this won't help out others who need more than just good produce.
Raising wages help people be able to afford the basic necessities of life. And while the truly rich has recovered from the depressive recession of 2008, most people's wages, especially the working poor, haven't kept up.
The Dems could put together a comprehensive bill noting several factors to lift boats so people can better afford access to food. Yes, the Dems aren't in power in the House, but they could take a lesson from the parliamentary system and offer an alternative so voters can see what they would do if the Dems were put back in charge.
But even with all of those bills and proposals, people in this country will still need food assistance. SNAP, food stamps, vouchers — whatever the name, they will still need help. And every private source and food bank out there combined can't make a dent in the problem.
Worried about money? Already saving plenty by not paying rich people to sit on their butts. Worried about dependency? We already have a system where people are ashamed or scared to use what they have a legitimate right to have? Worried about welfare queens? Well, you should be as scared of welfare queens as you are of the Sharknado.