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Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McGOVERN. I want to thank the gentlelady for yielding.

Let me get this straight. So, if Congress doesn't do its job, we don't get punished--poor people get punished. I think we have it backwards here. Why should we hold poor people hostage to the fact that somehow this Congress can't get its act together? For our lack of ability to get things done around here, we don't hold people accountable who receive other subsidies who are, quite frankly, well off.

This is yet another in a series of amendments to diminish the plight of poor people, to demonize programs like SNAP; and I really think it's unfortunate. I mean, we're going to punish poor people because we can't reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. What a terrible idea. I hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will agree with us on this and reject this.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 3 minutes.

This is a debate about values and priorities.

This amendment would restore the $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as ``food stamps.'' It would restore those cuts by eliminating or reducing some of the wasteful, excessive subsidies to the highly profitable big agribusiness. Not only that, the amendment would actually reduce the deficit by $12 billion beyond the base bill.

At a time when millions of Americans are struggling with unemployment, with poverty and with hunger, the FARRM Bill before us today would cause 2 million of our neighbors to lose their SNAP benefits. It would kick 210,000 kids off of the free school breakfast and lunch program. That's a rotten thing to do.

Mr. Lucas and others will argue that these SNAP cuts will only force poor people to fill out a few more forms, to jump through a few more hoops to get the assistance that they need to qualify for.

Let's think about that for a minute.

Aren't we a country that reaches out to those in need? When Americans see their neighbors having a hard time, don't we show up to help without being asked? Our churches and our food banks are doing extraordinary work, but they are already stretched to the limits.

Values and priorities.

Critics of the SNAP program talk about waste, fraud and abuse, but SNAP is one of the most efficiently run government programs we have, and some of the errors in SNAP are as a result of people getting less help than they qualify for. The base bill would cut $2 billion per year from a program that helps struggling families put food on the table--$2 billion.

I would remind my colleagues that we spend more than $2 billion every single week propping up a corrupt Karzai government in Afghanistan. Some people who have no problem with nation-building in Afghanistan, turn their backs on nation building here at home.

Values and priorities.

Fifty million Americans struggle with hunger; 17 million of those are our children. Hunger costs our Nation dearly. There is over $100 billion a year in avoidable health care costs, lost productivity, and hungry kids who can't learn in school. SNAP is one tool to address hunger in America. Like every other human endeavor, it is not perfect. It can be improved. But it would be shortsighted and cruel to make hunger worse in America, which is exactly what this bill would do.

If we want to reduce spending on SNAP, the best way to do that is to strengthen our economy, to invest in putting people back to work.

Values and priorities.

Mr. Chair, let us stay true to our values of compassion and decency and justice. Let us give priority to those among us who are struggling in these hard times, to the least of these.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 30 seconds.

Let me again remind my colleagues that the reason why we've seen an uptick in the number of people registered for SNAP is because we are coming out of this recession, the worst economy we've had since the Great Depression.

The gentleman from Iowa says it's a carefully negotiated, carefully studied compromise. We didn't have a single hearing on it, not in his subcommittee and not in the full committee. And the people we're talking about here are people who are good, honorable, decent Americans who are going to lose their benefit.

The Congressional Budget Office says 2 million people will lose their benefits. These aren't targeted at people who somehow abuse the system. These are just 2 million people who lose their benefits, 200,000 kids off the free breakfast and lunch. That's wrong.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of the time.

Mr. Chairman, because of prior cuts in the program already, even if we do nothing in terms of this farm bill, in terms of reducing SNAP, a family of three, on average, would lose about $30 a month in SNAP benefits. That's if we do nothing. They're already going to receive a reduction come November.

Then, on top of that is what we have in this farm bill. The CBO says that 2 million people will be thrown off the benefit. They say that over 200,000 kids will lose their free breakfast and lunch at school.

I have great respect for Chairman Lucas. I wanted very much to support a bill that he put together; but, to me, this cut is too big and is too harsh and is going to hurt too many people.

All of us came here to help people. We all came here to help our constituents, rich and poor alike. But this here will hurt people, and that is why I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

This cut is too big. It is too harsh. We don't need to do this. The price for a farm bill should not be to result in more hunger in America. We can do so much better. Our country is better than this.

So I urge all my colleagues, Republican and Democrat, to come together and support this amendment. Let's not make hunger worse in America.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this amendment.

I've always been a strong supporter of America's global food aid programs, and I've made it a point to visit these programs in the field in Africa and Latin America.

After seeing firsthand these emergency response and development programs, one thing is clear to me: we need to do whatever works best for each situation. One size does not fit all.

We should provide U.S. commodities and pre-position them in the field, cash for local purchase, vouchers and fortified foods for children, and we need grants for projects that address chronic hunger. That's exactly what the Royce-Engel amendment does. It provides flexibility. It expands U.S. options in responding to crises. It reaches more people for the same amount of dollars, and it continues the engagement of U.S. producers and shippers in alleviating global hunger.

Our food aid programs are designed to end hunger. We can do better. It's not all one way or the other. We should do what works. This amendment provides the flexibility.

I urge my colleagues to support the Royce-Engel amendment on food aid reform.

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Mr. McGOVERN. I thank the gentlelady, and I rise along with her to oppose this amendment.

I just want to say, Really? This is what we're debating here right now? I mean, I'm curious why the amendment doesn't include drug testing for people who get benefits of crop insurance or who receive direct payments, agricultural benefits from the Federal Government. Why aren't we requiring that they be drug tested, too? Why don't we drug test all the Members of Congress here, force everybody to go urinate in a cup to see whether or not anybody is on drugs? Maybe that will explain why some of these amendments are coming up or why some of the votes are turning out the way they are.

Bottom line is this is about demeaning poor people, and we've been doing this time and time again on this House floor. Enough is enough. We don't need this amendment. This is a bad idea. Please vote it down.

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