CONGRESS

Congress must stop playing politics with hunger

 
 
MCT
MCT
Miller / MCT

Los Angeles Times

One of the biggest pieces of business Congress has yet to resolve is the farm bill, legislation that has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades. Unfortunately, the process to reauthorize this crucial bill has taken a sharp and disheartening turn this year. The Senate and the House are in a standoff over extremely different versions of it with a deadline looming this month.

At stake is the ability of millions of Americans who still struggle in our economy to provide adequate and healthy meals for their children and families. In an unprecedented move, the House stripped the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), from the bill with an intention to pass a separate nutrition bill, one with significant cuts to programs that fight hunger.

There have always been disagreements between our parties over the farm bill, but for decades we have reached across the aisle to tackle the concerns on both sides. We proudly count ourselves among a series of bipartisan teams of legislators who worked past those differences to address hunger through provisions in the farm bill.

We are a country with ample resources, especially the plentiful supply of food produced by our farms. As Americans, we have always used this abundance to help those who are hungry, both here and abroad. For generations, the United States has welcomed new Americans escaping famine and hunger in their homelands.

All of us benefit from the efficiency of our farmers and ranchers. We enjoy a safe and plentiful food system for less than 10 percent of our disposable income. In fact, Americans spend a smaller percentage of our disposable income on food than people in any other country. As a nation blessed with a bounty of food, we are a nation with a duty to fight hunger.

The special relationship in the legislative process between agriculture and those who need assistance from the SNAP program is also built on this tradition. In the modern era, funding for this vital program has been extended as part of the farm bill with relatively little partisan bickering — until now. By stripping the nutrition title from the legislation this year, the House has severed the vital tie that helps connect our food system with those who struggle with hunger in our own backyard.

Over time, we have worked hard to improve the program’s efficiency and effectiveness. In 2011, SNAP lifted 47 million people out of poverty, and 72 percent of its participants were families with children. The error rate — the combined rate for underpayments and overpayments — has been on a steady decline since the 1990s. And a 2008 Moody’s Analytics study shows that every $1 spent to help reduce hunger has resulted in $1.70 in economic activity.

Tackling our nation’s hunger issues has always resulted in a win-win situation for farmers, low-income families and our economy. The latest proposal from the House is an about-face on our progress fighting hunger. It would eliminate food assistance for 4 million to 6 million Americans.

If Congress lets this bill fall victim to the misguided and detrimental partisan politics we face today, the results for families and children challenged with hunger will be severe. In a country struggling to emerge from the worst economic recession since the Depression, this is no time to play politics with hunger. As friends and colleagues, we hope that the House will do the right thing and follow the Senate’s lead in passing a farm bill with adequate funding for food assistance. Our nation’s future depends on it.

Bob Dole is a former Senate majority leader, R-Kan., and was the 1996 Republican nominee for president. Tom Daschle is a former Senate majority leader, D-S.D., and is a distinguished senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

©2013 Los Angeles Times

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  • CIVIL UNREST

    It can happen here, if we let it

    America’s urban cores have, in many cases, been abandoned by the powerful, dissected by highways that destroy a feeling of community and neglected in the apportionment of educational opportunities. The combination of external neglect and internal dysfunction has engendered explosive conditions — an undercurrent of anger that is easily made into a combustible mixture by the use of deadly force, typically involving a white police officer and a black citizen.

  •  
PUTNEY

    FLORIDA RACES

    Disgusted with smarmy campaigns

    How seriously should we take the candidates on the November ballot? As seriously as they take the big issues, which is not very.

  • In My Opinion

    Ray Rice’s fans are too quick to forgive

    “I think they’re going too far with Ray Rice.”

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category