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Public Statements

Flood Insurance and Modernization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Mr. President, I would like to commend the chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee and the ranking member of that committee for their dedicated effort to move the farm bill to the floor to discuss our Nation's agricultural policy and for their leadership in championing so many issues that help America's and New York's farmers.

I rise today because I really want to make clear to the American people just what is at stake and at the heart of this farm bill. It is about a growing economy for our family farms and for our small businesses. It is about reviving rural communities and rebuilding a thriving middle class and the opportunity for all of those who are trying to get there. It is about the health of our agricultural industry, the jobs it provides, and the health of our families whom it helps to feed. But from the amendments that are being filed today from across the aisle, you would not know it. There are some trying to use this bill to roll back protections for the air we breathe and for the water we drink. There are some who want to use this bill to expand concealed-carry laws for weapons. We are even seeing attempts to bring in the divisive politics from the Wisconsin recall and inject it right into the debate on the Senate floor on farm policy.

This bill has so much potential to create jobs, to help our farms thrive, to protect our farmers and small businesses from natural disasters, to feed our children, and to feed our at-risk seniors. But if we are ever going to reach that potential, we can't afford to get bogged down in these dead-end fights that are meant only to score political points.

Worse yet, there are Draconian cuts being proposed by some that will take even more money away from those who are the greatest in need. They want to take money away from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, which literally will result in children going to bed hungry in this country. These amendments simply do not meet the fundamental founding principles of this Nation or who we are as Americans. In this day and age, in this country, as rich as we are, to accept hungry children, hungry families, hungry seniors is unacceptable.

This farm bill started out with a $4.5 billion cut to food stamps over 10 years. These cuts must be restored. While I fought against these cuts with 13 of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, others are still actually advocating for additional, much more extreme cuts. They could even cut SNAP by almost half.

If you have heard from families living off of food stamps, as I have, you know this is something no one strives for. Most have never imagined that they would be on food stamps or that they would need that kind of support. But many have been dealt a very bad hand in this economy, and through no fault of their own they are finding they are in need. Food stamps are often the last resort for those who are just trying to keep the lights on, put food on the table for their kids, and find their way back to that paycheck they desperately want to be earning.

Among all the families relying on food stamps at historical rates, we are now seeing veterans and their families. I can tell you that our veterans and their families have already suffered a lot. For these troops who are coming
home, they are coming back into a very tough economy and are unable to find the jobs they need. And we have to imagine these children of our vets who have already suffered so much, and now they are being faced with not knowing from where their next meal will come.

For any parent watching this debate today, I just want to ask one question. Has your child ever said to you: Mommy, I am still hungry.

Well, I can't imagine what a mother would feel like if she could not hand her child some food. I can't imagine what a mother would feel like if her child said that to her every single night. That is exactly what we are talking about today in this farm bill. As a mother and legislator, watching children suffer, watching America's children not having enough to eat is something I will not stand quietly by and watch.

Under this bill, nearly 300,000 families in New York will become food insecure, and what that translates to is $90 a month that they will have less money to put food on the table, and what that translates to is that it is the last week of the month. That $90 pays the grocery bills every single week. What do these families do when they don't have enough money at the end of the month? Despite not being responsible for the economic crisis our country has faced, we will be asking these families to share a disproportionate amount of the burden being placed on them.

We know that food stamps are such a good investment into our economy. For every dollar we put into food stamps, we get $1.71 back into the economy. Even one of the best economists, Mark Zandi, said: ``The fastest way to infuse money into the economy is through expanding the SNAP/food stamps program.'' These food stamps pay salaries for grocery clerks and truckers who haul the food. The USDA estimates that 16 cents goes right back to the farmer.

I know my time is expiring, but I have 13 bipartisan cosponsors for this amendment, and the list keeps growing with the support from the AARP, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and all of those who are fighting on the front line for hunger.

Our amendment will restore the SNAP funding back to the $4.5 billion that has been cut, and it will pay for the food our kids so desperately need. Every child in America deserves to be fed. Every child in America deserves to reach their God-given potential. We need to restore these cuts to ensure that.

I yield the floor.


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