Congress must not leave children and seniors behind with farm bill

By Congressman Pete Gallego —

When politicians in Washington take an all-or-nothing approach, the folks back home usually get nothing.

Congressional action – or inaction – on the farm bill has been the most disappointing of my tenure in Congress.

The bill originally includes programs critically important to rural
and urban communities. The farm bill seeks to reform commodity and crop
insurance programs, expand funding for certain research and development
programs, streamline regulatory relief measures and promote healthier
foods.

As part of the Agriculture Committee, I was one of those Democrats
who joined Republicans and voted for a bipartisan product coming out of
committee.

However, during floor proceedings, the bipartisan product of which
I'd been a part was hijacked by the extreme right faction in Congress.

Changes were made to the bipartisan product by right-wing members who
didn't intend to vote for the bill but simply sought to destroy the
compromise. They succeeded.

Last week extremists in the House voted for a final partisan product
that stripped nutritional assistance to children and the elderly.

Essentially, they split the farm bill. And they did so even though
that the Texas Farm Bureau, along with more than 530 farm groups
actually affected by the process asked for a unified farm bill.

The supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP) is critical to
children and seniors in Texas' 23rd congressional district.

This program is an anti-hunger safety net that serves vulnerable
children and seniors across our country. The average benefit is $4.50 a
day – that's a lifeline, not a luxury.

Approximately 36,000 households in the district are receiving SNAP.
The vast majority of these households are made up of working-class
families with young children. And, close to 30 percent of these
households have seniors.

SNAP is also one of our most effective and efficient federal programs.

The error rate for the SNAP program was 3.80 percent in 2011 – the lowest in the history of the program.

The cuts to food assistance included in the measure are not
acceptable for our nation's children. Our country is too great to allow
children to go hungry, and children should never bear the brunt for the
sake of politics.

This process isn't supposed to work this way, it is supposed to be
bipartisan. It is supposed to be a product that is carefully crafted for
the good of the country. It's unfortunate that it's come to this and I
simply cannot support a bill that leaves out children and our elderly.

I call on the Congress to make changes and to pass a unified farm
bill. I'm hopeful that we can pass a bill that looks out for our farmers
and ranchers, and Texas families.

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