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CHC Sends Letter Urging Opposition to Harmful Farm Bill

May 17, 2018
Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01), CHC Agriculture Task Force Chair Representative Jim Costa (CA-16) and 20 CHC Members sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan outlining their concerns with H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 and urging him to oppose its passage. If adopted this partisan proposal would harm millions of Latinos and their families by making sweeping cuts and changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as other priority programs, and hurt our nation’s agriculture interests.
 
“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is dedicated to voicing and advancing policies that help the 58 million Latinos living and contributing across the country. This includes championing policies that promote a strong agriculture sector and help Latino communities achieve economic security and increase access to healthy, affordable food,” the Members wrote.

They continued: “The Farm Bill has historically been a bipartisan effort to ensure our nation’s agriculture interests are prioritized and that critical food assistance programs like SNAP are maintained and strengthened. Unfortunately, H.R. 2 would to do little more than lead to increased hunger and hardship for many of America’s working families and their children, including Latinos. As such, we oppose H.R. 2 and we urge you to join us.”
The official letter can be found here.
 
TEXT OF LETTER
 
May 15, 2018
 
The Honorable Paul Ryan                                           
Speaker of the House                                     
H-232 The Capitol                                                      
Washington, DC 20515                                                          
 
 
Dear Speaker Ryan:
 
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is dedicated to voicing and advancing policies that help the 58 million Latinos living and contributing across the country. This includes championing policies that promote a strong agriculture sector and help Latino communities achieve economic security and increase access to healthy, affordable food.
 
It is in this context that we are deeply concerned about the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, H.R. 2. Commonly known as the Farm Bill, H.R. 2 will harm millions of Latinos and their families.  Last month, we sent a letter on behalf of CHC to Chairman Conway outlining our priorities for the Farm Bill.  The bill reported to the House Floor fails the basic test for a successful farm bill: does this bill provide nutritious, domestically produced food for Americans and support the communities that provide it?
 
This proposal is troubling in many respects: it fails to sufficiently protect our natural resources including clean water, cuts important clean and renewable energy programs, and divests from our land grant universities limiting research and education.  
 
Most egregious, the Nutrition Title, Title IV, will take food out of the refrigerator for millions of Americans by limiting access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation’s most effective anti-hunger program.  SNAP currently assists more than 40 million Americans, including 10 million low-income Latinos who struggle to put food on the table. Two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. In 2015, the program lifted at least 1.2 million Latinos out of poverty with some analyses estimating an even higher number. Given SNAP’s important role for the Latino community, we are very concerned about the bill’s impacts, which include:
 
Drastically cutting SNAP benefits. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that H.R. 2 would cut around $23 billion in benefits over ten years. More than 1 million households, including some households with children, will see their SNAP benefits either significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. Undoubtedly, this would result in higher levels of hunger and poverty. On average, Latino families who participate in SNAP receive $290 in benefits each month. This is often not enough, and such draconian cuts would only make it harder for families to put food on the table.
 
Fundamentally restructuring SNAP. H.R.2’s additional funding to SNAP’s Employment and Training (E&T) programs, while well-intentioned, is poorly designed and would actually undermine the purpose and role of SNAP.  The proposal would shift funds away from food assistance. Rather than evaluating evidence from the state pilot programs implemented under the last Farm Bill, H.R. 2 plows ahead creating a new bureaucracy to run an untested and woefully underfunded program.  The proposed $1 billion that H.R. 2 allocates to E&T programs each year would mean only $28 per month per unemployed SNAP recipient. Meaningful E&T programs are estimated to cost anywhere from $7,000 to $14,000 per participant to provide meaningful skill-building opportunities. H.R. 2 creates a new, insufficiently funded program that is destined to fail at the expense of critical food assistance for many of our neighbors.
 
Erecting additional barriers to participation. SNAP currently serves millions of Latino families each year, many of whom are low-income working families. Any push to institute additional work requirements or limit states’ flexibility to obtain waivers for the work rules, would be burdensome to our community. Latinos are often overrepresented in low-wage jobs with unpredictable hours or wages, and are more likely than their White counterparts to be considered “working poor,” meaning they spend at least 27 weeks in the labor force but have incomes falling below the federal poverty level. Administrative barriers such as documenting compliance with existing work requirements already pose a barrier for Latinos in maintaining eligibility. The bill’s proposal to require people to prove each month they worked or participated in training programs will only exacerbate existing barriers for Latino families. As it is, Latinos already are at an increased risk of nonparticipation in SNAP. The bill also contains punitive measures, including a harsh lockout period of a year for non-compliance and a lockout period of 3 years for subsequent non-compliance.
 
Equally concerning is the proposal to eliminate states’ options of broad-based categorical eligibility, which currently allows states to adjust income cutoffs and asset limits. This helps ensure that working families do not abruptly lose much of their SNAP benefits when they earn slightly more. The bill would also severe the connection between SNAP and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which assists low-income families with their heating and energy costs. These changes would be detrimental since it would cause some families to also lose LIHEAP benefits. 
 
We would be remiss if we did not discuss how H.R. 2 would impact children.  The CBO estimates that the majority of adults who would lose benefits due to work requirements would be those in households with children. The CBO also estimates that most of the households that would lose benefits due to the elimination of broad-based categorical eligibility would be working families with children. Further, in addition to children losing SNAP benefits through the elimination of broad-based categorical eligibility, the CBO estimates that as a result, 265,000 children stand to lose access to free school meals. This is critical, given that 1 in 4 Latino children currently live in food insecure households.
 
The Farm Bill has historically been a bipartisan effort to ensure our nation’s agriculture interests are prioritized and that critical food assistance programs like SNAP are maintained and strengthened. Unfortunately, H.R. 2 would to do little more than lead to increased hunger and hardship for many of America’s working families and their children, including Latinos. As such, we oppose H.R. 2 and we urge you to join us.
 
Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact CHC Executive Director Alma Acosta at alma.acosta@mail.house.gov.
 
Sincerely,
 
CC: Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
 ###
 
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.