We all need regular access to nutritious, sustainably-grown and affordable food. That's why protecting federal food assistance programs and Black family farms is an issue that affects us all. Right now, Congress needs to hear from everyday people who are trying to feed their families in this struggling economy — not just representatives of Big Agribusinesses that place profits over people.
Join us to tell Congress to protect food stamps and family farms. You can read the email we sent to our members today below:
Dear ColorOfChange.org Member,
Congress is poised to both cut food stamps for nearly half a million recipients and cripple a program that assists Black family farmers. And while it's slashing these essential programs that help regular folks make ends meet, our Representatives are bending over backwards to protect billions in wasteful subsidies for Big Agribusiness.1,2
In light of the ongoing economic crisis — including stubbornly high rates of joblessness and food insecurity — it's imperative that healthy food, hungry people and struggling family farmers come first. But time is running out to make our voices heard: the House Ag Committee is now deliberating the text of the 2012 Farm Bill, the omnibus legislation that will dictate our agriculture and nutrition policy for the next five years.
The Farm Bill has already suffered major cuts to crucial programs in the Senate.3 Amending the bill now before it passes out of the House committee is crucial to ensuring that our families — on the farm and off — will continue to be able to put enough food on the table even in the toughest of times. Please urge Congress to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and safeguard livelihoods for Black family farmers. It only takes a moment:
The Farm Bill was created over 60 years ago to help the country recover from the Great Depression, and to ensure that farmers could survive and people wouldn't go hungry. And that remains its primary purpose. The last Farm Bill was passed in 2008 and is set to expire in September of this year.
Ensuring food security for all
The largest expenditure in the Farm Bill funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, which helps hungry families buy groceries, provides a market for small farmers, and boosts local economies in some of the most depressed regions of our country. Put plainly, SNAP is key to ensuring food security for millions of Americans who are struggling.
46 million people, or more than one in seven Americans, have signed up for SNAP so far in 2012 — which is in keeping with the percentage of the U.S. workforce experiencing unemployment or underemployment.4 Of that number, 22.5% are Black folks,5 with as many as 9 in 10 Black children receiving food stamps before reaching the age of 20.6 Yet, in spite of the staggering levels of American poverty and hunger these numbers represent, proposals continually roll in to eviscerate SNAP, a vital element of our rapidly-fraying social safety net.
And SNAP isn't just necessary to make sure that no one goes hungry — the program also reliably generates significant economic growth. For every dollar invested in the food stamp program, $1.71 is pumped back into the economy, helping to pay the wages of producers, grocers, truck drivers, and any number of other people who help move our food from farm to table.7 In this way, SNAP is key to the economic stability of some of our poorest states.
Preserving livelihoods for Black family farmers
Protecting access to healthy and affordable food through SNAP is only half the battle. Also on the chopping block is a program dedicated to redressing the generations of disparate land loss experienced by so-called "socially disadvantaged" producers — meaning Black, Latino, Native American, and other minority farmers and ranchers historically discriminated against by the US Department of Agriculture.
For decades, USDA officials systematically denied Black farmers loans and subsidies that they routinely made available to white farmers.8 At best, this state-sponsored discrimination retarded the growth of many Black farms, but in practice it resulted in many simply going under — causing devastating losses of land, income, and intergenerational vocational knowledge. In 1920, Blacks made up about 15 percent of the nation's farmers, but today that number is just one percent.9
The Farm Bill's 2501 program exists to ensure that today, minority producers have opportunities to successfully acquire, own, operate and retain farms and ranches despite the USDA's history of neglect and abuse. Specifically, 2501 seeks to guarantee that socially disadvantaged producers equitably participate in all USDA programs, through the provision of targeted financial and technical assistance. Yet the current version of the Farm Bill would decimate 2501, significantly slashing the program's funding and making it much more difficult to access resources.10
The 2501 Program and SNAP provide necessary resources to improve equity for Black farmers as well as ensure access to healthy food and vegetables for our families. So many Black folks are struggling in these tough economic times — it's critical that Congress prioritize safeguarding human lives and livelihoods over pandering to ludicrously profitable agribusiness corporations that don't need the help. Without sufficient resources provided in the Farm Bill, millions of families will have an even harder time making ends meet than they do today. Join us in urging our Representatives to fully fund those portions of the Farm Bill that our community relies on the most. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same:
Thanks and Peace,
-- Rashad, Gabriel, Dani, Matt, Natasha, Kim, Aimée and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
June 26th, 2012
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1. “Food Leaders: The Farm Bill Props Up The Wrong People,’” The Atlantic, 06-05-2012
2. “Senate farm bill a small step forward for California,” San Francisco Chronicle, 05-28-2012
3. “Food Stamp Vote In Senate Blocks Bid To Restore $4.5 Billion In Aid,” Huffington Post, 06-19-2012
4. “More than 46.4 Million Americans Participated in SNAP in March 2012,” Food Research & Action Center, 03-01-2012
5. “Fact Sheet: Poverty and Hunger among African-Americans” (.pdf), Bread for the World Institute, 02-01-2011
6. “Study: Half of U.S. kids will receive food stamps,” USA Today, 11-02-2009
7. “The Farm Bill Should Protect Hungry Kids, Not Subsidies for Insurance Companies,” Huffington Post, 06-06, 2012
8. “Demand immediate justice for Black farmers,” ColorOfChange.org, 04-01-2009
9. “Payout to black farmers: Too little, too late,” Atlanta Voice, 05-10-2012
10. “The Farm Bill is Dead! Long Live the Farm Bill – Part Two,” National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, 11-22-2011