Background: Staff for the likely House and Senate Farm Bill conferees have begun meeting to discuss the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill. (H.R. 2646/S. 1731). Both bills reauthorize the Food Stamp program, but they vary significantly in how they change the program. A firm conference committee schedule is not yet available, but they hope to complete their work by the Easter Recess (March 22).
Key Food Issues in the Farm Bill Conference Committee:
Funding Levels: The Senate bill provides $8.9 billion in funding over ten years for the nutrition title, while the House bill earmarks only $3.6 billion over ten years. Urge Conferees to maintain the Senate nutrition title funding level.
Restoring Eligibility for Legal Immigrants: The House bill does not address this issue at all. The Senate bill restores food stamp benefits to many legal immigrants, including all children and those in the country more than five years. However, language in the Senate bill would deny eligibility to anyone who had been in the country without legal status for more that 12 months forcing states to make complicated immigration law determinations about an individual's immigration status many years before the date of food stamp application. Urge conferees to accept the full range of Senate restoration but to strike the prior status provision.
Other Program Improvements: Both House and Senate bills contain provsions to strengthen food stamps benefits (for example, increasing the standard deduction, phasing out the shelter dedcution cap, easing strict limits on childless adults, and prvoidng transitional benefits for TANF-leavers), to improve quality control, and to simplify program rules to make it easier for those eligible for food stamps to access the program. Urge conferees to agree to adopt the strongest package of food stamp program improvements from both bills.
Action Needed Now: Call the House and Senate members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee NOW and urge them to support the strongest possible Nutrition Title including the broadest possible restoration of eligibility for legal immigrants.
If your Representative or Senators are not conferees, call NOW and urge them to weigh in with their colleagues on the Conference Committee.
Senate Conferees: Harkin (D-IA), Daschle (D-SD), Leahy (D-VT), Conrad (D-ND), Lugar (R-IN), Helms (R-NC) and Cochran (R-MS)
House Conferees (likely not yet appointed): Combest (R-TX0, Goodlatte (R-VA), Boehner (R-OH), Pombo (R-CA), Everett (R-AL), Lucas (R-OK), Chambliss (R-GA), J. Moran (R-KS), Stenholm (D-TX), Clayton (D-NC), Condit (D-CA), Peterson (D-MN), Dooley (D-CA), Holden (D-PA).
Call your Senators through the Capitol switchboard (202) 225-3121.
The U.S. Catholic bishops have consistently supported national policy to establish food security and combat hunger; to strengthen domestic food assistance programs to ensure that no one in America goes hungry or suffers malnutrition; and to create an agricultural/food system that promotes healthy communities, and local participation, allowing Americans and farm families everywhere to thrive abundantly. See Food Policy in a Hungry World .
For more information, contact Kathy Curran at 202-541-3188, firstname.lastname@example.org.