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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DeFAZIO. Last week I went shopping. I wouldn't exactly call it a spree. What I did was I went to one of the lowest cost grocery stores in the Eugene-Springfield area where I live to try and purchase a week's worth of food for $31.50. That's the average SNAP benefit for a single individual.

There are those on the other side of the aisle with regard to the FARRM Bill that will come up later today and say, This is the first place to cut: food assistance to hungry people, to kids, to seniors, to the unemployed, the disabled. That's where they want to cut first.

I wonder how many of them have ever tried to budget for themselves or for their spouse and child at $31.50 per person for a week. It doesn't go too far. In fact, I ended up a little bit over because we miscalculated on weighing some apples. I had three apples, but I had to put one back and would have had to cut back a little bit more on the pasta to make the $31.50 budget limit.

There are these incredible stereotypes out there about the SNAP program, the food assistance program formerly called food stamps, that all these people are on welfare. No. Actually, 92 percent of the people getting SNAP benefits are not on welfare. Half of them are children and 22 percent are on Social Security or Social Security Disability. So they're either seniors or disabled. The rest are unemployed or underemployed. And at $31.50 a week--a benefit that the other side of the aisle wants to cut--many of these people now can't make it through the month. This is pretty paltry stuff if you look at it and you think about doing this week in and week out.

Most people in Oregon--and Oregon is a lower cost State than many for food--run out sometimes in the third week of their benefits and they have to get emergency food assistance. Our food banks provided 1 million boxes of emergency food assistance last year. Yet, those on that side of the aisle would begrudge these people, their children, these seniors, these disabled an adequate budget for a very minimal diet.

It's extraordinary to me.

My State--and most people don't think of us this way--we are the fourth highest per capita in terms of food stamp utilization. Fourth highest per capita, because outside of our major urban areas, the economy has not recovered from the collapse that Wall Street caused in housing and other areas. We had recreational vehicles; that industry is gone. We had some high tech; that's moved on. We had a lot of construction, home building, wood products--pretty well decimated. The rural areas I have in my rural counties--real unemployment of 20 percent. People are struggling to make ends meet, and we're going to cut their benefits? They want to work. Some of them are working, and we even have a higher minimum wage than most States, but it still won't get you through to the end of the month for your family. This is just outrageous.

There are ways to cut this bill. We're going to stop paying--finally, at last, we're going to stop paying people not to grow things. But now we're going to have a new program of crop insurance. And some estimates are that this program--which goes to anybody with an unlimited income in this bill, that is, if you're a corporate farm and you earn $2 million a year, the government is going to pay for 80 percent of your crop insurance cost. Eighty percent subsidy from the taxpayers. Why is that?

We could cut back on the eligibility, and this would be a pretty big income for any farmer I know of. If you earn over a quarter-million dollars a year, go buy your own crop insurance. I think it even could be a little lower than that in my State and in most States. That would save as much money as they're going to save by eliminating food assistance to hungry kids, seniors, unemployed and underemployed, and disabled Americans. These are the cruelest cuts possible.

I urge my colleagues to support the amendment later today which would restore these benefits.

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