McGovern: GOP Farm Bill Will Hurt Millions of Hungry Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), a member of House Democratic leadership and the Ranking Member on the House Agriculture Committee’s Nutrition Subcommittee delivered the following speech denouncing the 2018 Republican Farm Bill for its extreme cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Congressman McGovern said the more than $23 billion in cuts to the anti-hunger program would hurt families across the country.

Click here to view video of Congressman McGovern’s Speech.

“Last week, after turning their backs on bipartisanship, Republicans on the Agriculture Committee advanced a highly partisan farm bill that hurts our most vulnerable constituents.

“The farm bill cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, by over $23 billion. It eliminates state flexibility, erects new barriers to accessing the program, and creates a massive new untested and underfunded bureaucracy. Most troubling, the bill reduces or eliminates benefits for nearly two million kids, veterans, working families, and other vulnerable adults.

“The bill was drafted in secret and is not reflective of the 23 hearings that our Committee held on SNAP over the past two and a half years. In fact, I’m having a difficult time determining where some of these controversial provisions originated. Were they cooked up at some far right-wing think tank? Did they come from some outlier in the Trump Administration?

“Were they the creation of Speaker Ryan, who is desperate to pass his extreme welfare reform agenda before he retires at the end of this Congress? This secretive, closed process has left me with more questions than I have answers. It’s awful, and it’s not the way the People’s House should operate. It’s not fair to our constituents.

“Last week I came to the House floor and outlined some of the most troubling provisions Chairman Conaway and House Republicans insisted on including in this bill. Today, I’d like to take a few minutes to share with my colleagues who will be harmed if this reckless proposal is allowed to advance.

“Provisions in the Republican farm bill specifically target millions of older adults over the age of 50 who rely on SNAP to put food on the table when times are tough. While SNAP law already includes strict work requirements and time limits, House Republicans are now seeking to completely cut off assistance for people who are unable to find work or a suitable job training program. And they are doing this without a serious plan that would actually help them find work. It’s a rotten thing to do. To make matters worse, Republicans are extending these mandatory work requirements to people up to the age of 60.

“AARP, our country’s leading voice for those over 50, has cautioned Chairman Conaway and Republicans in Congress that it is particularly difficult for individuals over 50 to find consistent work. In a letter to our Committee, AARP’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Joyce Rogers said this bill could ‘increase food insecurity and likely have negative consequences on health.’

“This damaging mandatory work proposal doesn’t just impact older Americans; it extends to other groups, as well. For example, under this bill, thousands of veterans will lose access to SNAP benefits if they can’t find work or a job training program. Veterans. Men and women who have put their lives on the line for us. The least we can do – the very least – is ensure they have access to modest food benefits when they fall upon hard times.

“Among the other vulnerable adults who will subjected to mandatory work requirements are teenagers just aging out of foster care, people with underlying mental health issues, chronically homeless individuals, and ex-offenders with nowhere else to turn.

“Are these the people we want to be turning our backs on? Their lives are already challenging. This Republican Congress should not be making it more difficult for them to survive.

“Other provisions in this terrible bill target working families with kids. The bill eliminates an important provision that provides states with the flexibility to raise income cutoffs and ease asset limits. Taking away this state option cuts 400,000 eligible households – 900,000 adults and kids – off of SNAP and takes free school meals away from 265,000 kids.

“Sadly, this bill also limits access to benefits for people with disabilities. It imposes new paperwork requirements on SNAP recipients with out of pocket utility costs, placing more burdens on those living with disabilities. While there appear to be some exceptions to the burdensome work requirements I noted earlier for people with disabilities, many others who may not meet the statutory definition, or who have not yet been identified, would be cut off of assistance. That’s why the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities sent our Committee a letter strongly opposed to this bill.

“I could spend hours pointing out the bad provisions in this bill, but I’ll close by once again urging this Republican leadership to stop their attacks on those living in poverty. Pull this bill. Pull this awful bill. Let’s work together to craft a bipartisan farm bill that supports our farmers and our nutrition programs. Let’s advance a bill we can all be proud of. Negotiate a bipartisan bill. Stop insisting on this $23 billion cut to SNAP benefits. Let’s pass a good farm bill, not this partisan nightmare.

“And I urge the Republican leadership in this Congress to join with us to end hunger now. Stop trying to make hunger worse. Let’s work together to end hunger now. It’s our moral imperative.”

Click here to view video of Congressman McGovern’s Speech.