Is Agribusiness Benefiting from SNAP Cuts?
PHOTO: Some advocates in Ohio say any cuts to SNAP in the farm bill would come on the backs of the poor, while agribusiness and crop-insurance corporations benefit. Photo courtesy of AFSC Northeast Ohio.
January 16, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, helps feed more than 47 million Americans who have a difficult time putting food on the table.
The Farm Bill under debate in Washington could slash SNAP assistance $9 billion over 10 years.
Greg Coleridge, executive director of the American Friends Service Committee in Northeast Ohio, says those cuts come as big agriculture and crop-insurance companies persuade leaders to ensure that subsidies that are of interest to them are protected in the Farm Bill.
"Major agricultural and insurance corporations have been fanning across the Capitol like locusts over pristine crop land with lobbyists and political campaign contributions," he maintains.
Coleridge says agribusiness and crop insurance interests spent about $95 million lobbying Congress and various federal agencies just last year.
He and other advocates in Ohio say not only should there be no cuts to the program but they're also encouraging leaders to take a hard look at policies that allow corporations to have the same free-speech rights as individuals.
Citizens United was the U.S. Supreme Court decision that widened corporations' right to free speech in the form of unlimited political contributions.
While supporters say it's a well-established legal doctrine and all political speech is too important to restrict, Coleridge says it's a right that should only be applied to people.
"Their money and their voices have drowned out the voices of people without money,” he says, “particularly people on food stamps who are trying to use what few resources they have to feed themselves and their family. They're not out trying to buy, rent, lease or retain public officials like these agribusiness corporations are doing."
An estimated 1.8 million Ohioans live in poverty and 1 in 6 Ohio families do not know where its next meal will come from.
Coleridge says policymakers should be considering the lives of Ohioans who are struggling.
"Whether that's realistic or not politically, humanly and ethically and morally we think there should be no cuts, particularly to people who are experiencing such a hardship," he says.
An announcement on the Farm Bill could come as early as next week.