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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Headshot

The Farm Bill Should Protect Hungry Kids, Not Subsidies for Insurance Companies

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Over the past two years, I've traveled throughout New York meeting with farmers and anti-hunger advocates to develop our priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill. Based on these conversations, I fought for and won several provisions in the bill such as improved crop insurance for fruit and vegetable farmers, rural broadband services to support small business development, and grants and loan financing to build grocery stores in rural and urban food deserts.

These conversations also made it clear to me how important SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is, not only to our struggling families who rely on these benefits to put food on their tables, but to farmers whose produce is being purchased by so many Americans at farmers markets and grocery stores using food stamps.

The fact is that food stamps are an effective investment. For every dollar that's invested into the SNAP program, we get $1.71 back in return. This money pays the salaries of grocery clerks as well as the truckers who haul the food and produce across the country. In addition, the USDA estimates that 16 cents goes back to the farmer who grows the produce. As Moody's economist Mark Zandi put it, "The fastest way to infuse money into the economy is through expanding the SNAP/food stamp program."

In the end, however, the Farm Bill that passed out of the Agriculture Committee last month proposes cutting $4.5 billion from the SNAP program over 10 years in the name of fiscal belt-tightening. Under this current bill, families will be less food secure than they are right now.

In real dollar terms, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this would mean a loss in benefits of about $90 a month, a devastating amount of money for millions of struggling families including 190,000 low-income families in New York City and nearly 300,000 throughout New York State. Half of all beneficiaries of food stamps are children. As the mother of two young boys, I can think of no more simple or elemental thing that a family must provide than food for their children. Children need food to grow, they need food to learn, and they need food to reach their God-given potential.

This is why I voted against the Farm Bill in committee last month and it's why today I introduced an amendment to restore the $4.5 billion in funding to SNAP. My amendment would pay for the restoration of this funding by reducing federal subsidies for crop insurance companies that are already making huge annual profits.

Earlier this week, I was honored to stand at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City with Chef Tom Colicchio, as well as representatives from NYC Coalition Against Hunger, Food Bank for NYC, Environmental Working Group, AARP, United Way of New York City, Cornell Co-op Extension, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), RWDSU, NYS Hunger Action Network, Rural-Urban Alliance Committee and the Food and Research Action Center to speak out against these severe cuts. I appreciate their support and strong advocacy as we fight together to reverse these cuts on the floor of the Senate.

We can afford a fully funded SNAP program that provides our struggling families with the nutrition and assistance they need. We should all be able to agree that the last thing we should be doing is protecting subsidies for insurance companies making huge profits at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society, particularly hungry children.

I was on Politics Nation to discuss this issue, I hope you'll watch:

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