Letter to Secretary Ed Schafer, United States Department of Agriculture
KERRY PRESSES AGRICULTURE SECRETARY FOR POLICY CHANGES TO HELP ADDRESS HUNGER AND NUTRITION FOR LOW-INCOME AMERICANS
As Secretary Schaefer Visits Massachusetts Food Bank, Kerry Urges White House to Support Hunger, Nutrition Policies in Farm Bill
As the new Agriculture Secretary visited Massachusetts' Greater Boston Food Bank, Senator Kerry today wrote to Secretary Ed Schafer expressing his concern over the Administration's significant cuts to our nation's food assistance systems.
"Millions of people, including hundreds of thousands here in Massachusetts, rely on food banks to survive. From cuts to our nation's nutrition and food assistance programs to the proposals to limit food stamp eligibility, the Bush Administration's budget cuts have hurt the most vulnerable at a time of sky-rocketing food costs. No one should go hungry because Washington fails to see the urgency of the problem. I strongly urge Secretary Schafer to push for a change in Administration policy and address the critical food supply issues facing our state, before anyone else goes to bed hungry," said Kerry.
The text of the letter is as follows:
Secretary Ed Schafer
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Schafer,
I understand that you will be visiting the Greater Boston Food Bank on Wednesday, April 30th.
I understand that you inherited some serious problems at the Department of Agriculture and that in your new position we can begin to make headway in addressing the critical hunger and food supply issues facing eastern Massachusetts. Still I continue to have several concerns about the Administration's record on nutrition issues.
As you know, the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) distributes approximately 30 million pounds of food and groceries annually to more than 600 hunger relief agencies in eastern Massachusetts and serves over 320,000 people annually. The GBFB is one of the stars of our state's food assistance system, but it and other nutrition service providers have suffered the consequences of repeated policy choices made by this Administration.
Over the past several years, the President's budgets have proposed significant cuts in essential nutrition and food assistance programs. The President's 2008 and 2009 budget proposals have proposed the elimination of food stamp benefits for over 300,000 low-income individuals during an average month. The November 2007 Statement of Administration Policy on the Farm Bill reiterated the same ill-advised policy. In addition, for the past three years, the President's budget would have eliminated funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), thereby terminating food assistance to 440,000 low-income seniors in an average month. This approach has had a devastating impact on low-income communities faced with skyrocketing food costs.
Most recently, the Administration has voiced its opposition to key nutrition programs contained in the Farm Bill. While we are still waiting on the details of the conference agreement, the new legislation is likely to include $10.3 billion in new nutrition spending, including increased funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program at the level of $250 million annually. The Administration has opposed several key nutrition programs contained in the legislation, including the expansion of the Fruits and Vegetables program and the maintenance of food stamp eligibility conditions mentioned above.
On the occasion of your visit to Massachusetts, I hope you would advocate a change in policy and voice your support of these and other essential provisions are poised to provide real and immediate assistance to low-income Americans suffering from rising food prices. Any veto threat from the Administration would create unjustifiable delay and potentially result in the straight extension of the existing Farm Bill, locking in food stamp cuts that affect more than 10 million food stamp recipients.
In the face of rising food prices around the country, I urge the Administration to support the Congress's Farm Bill and its strong nutrition programs. I look forward to our continued collaboration on behalf of low-income families and communities in Massachusetts and throughout the country.
John F. Kerry