How the Farm Bill Cuts to SNAP Affect Rural Communities

“I’m a Christian, and this chapter talks about how you treat the least among us,” said Representative Juan Vargas of California this past Wednesday, reading from the book of Matthew.

Vargas was among the minority in the House Agriculture Committee who spoke out against deep cuts to SNAP benefits – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps).

Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts agreed with Vargas, adding “Christians, Jews Muslims, whatever — we are failing our sisters and brothers”.

Indeed, as people of faith who care about our hungry neighbors, we have much to be concerned about. The proposed farm bill passed through the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, and will be up for final approval on Monday. (It is filed as H.R. 1947, also known as the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, or FARRM.) The bill is slated to eliminate nearly $21 billion in SNAP benefits over the next decade. The Center on Budget Policies and Priorities estimates that these cuts will eliminate access to these benefits for almost 2 million Americans.

The tiresome details of this social travesty include the complicated dynamics of eliminating the “categorical eligibility” option, a bureaucratic maneuver that is projected to impact 1.8 million Americans, the majority of which will be low income families and seniors.

One of the most outrageous implications of eliminating the categorical eligibility option is that families who have a car with a market value of $5,000 or more will no longer be eligible for SNAP benefits. It does not take deep pondering to uncover a whole host of common sense questions; most significantly–should a family really be forced to choose between a reliable way to get to work and food for their children? Punishing those who are blessed to have the vital asset of transportation is especially cruel to those living in rural communities.

Similarly, those with savings above $2000 will no longer be eligible for SNAP benefits. How will the cycle of poverty be broken when our support system discourages asset building and car ownership, two basic requirements along the pathway towards economic stability?

There is a desperately short amount of time to speak up and influence the House and Senate as they issue their versions of this bill on Monday. Please consider speaking up before it’s too late.

Call the Congress switchboard at 877-757-6910 and ask to be connected with your state senators. Tell them why cutting SNAP benefits is detrimental to your community.

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