A new report by Food and Water Watch shows that more than 1,000 outside interests and more than $170 million went into the 2008 Farm Bill. With the newest law up for debate, what will Congress and lobbyists do to see their interests met?
For those facing hard times, even the most basic needs are not always met. In Washington DC, the need for food assistance has grown exponentially.
“Since 2008 there has been a 25 percent increase in the number of families, children, senior citizens who need our food assistance,” said Shamia Holloway of the Capital Area Food Bank.
The Capital Area Food Bank provides food to organizations who distribute it to those in need. Many of them are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. It’s one of several programs facing extreme cuts in the upcoming farm bill.
“If SNAP is cut, a person who is getting $100 in SNAP could have their benefits reduced to maybe 50 to 60 dollars a month,” said Brian Banks, the Capital Area Food Bank’s director of public policy “And if this is a person that maybe has a family of three or four people and $50 or $60 doesn’t go a long way.”
The future of food stamps is determined in a large and complex piece of legislation known as the Farm Bill which is renewed every five years. The last one passed in 2008 and although the debate in Congress for the new one should have already begun, it’s been pushed to the side time and time again.
One reason for this is that there are simply too many cooks in the kitchen.
In their newly released report, Cultivating Influence: The 2008 Farm Bill Lobbying Frenzy , the group Food and Water Watch breaks down the forces behind the ingredients of the bill.
“Over the course of the debate of the 2008 Farm Bill, over a thousand entitles - companies, trade associations, groups – lobbied,” said Patti Lovera with Food and Water Watch. “They spent $173 million, according to our calculations.”
Major lobbying influences include Monsanto, Kraft Foods, The American Sugar Alliance and The National Restaurant Association. But perhaps the company with the greatest influence is Walmart. They’ve got 4,000 stores across this country – many of them SuperCenters- and just in the last 15 years have gone from having 6 percent to a full quarter of nationwide grocery sales. And that means not just more profit, but much more power as well.
These are companies and organizations with money that often speaks louder than anything. It’s money that dictates profits for farmers and grocers, and determines how much money will go to the SNAP Program.
With greater need facing deeper cuts, it could be a recipe for hardship for more and more Americans.