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Policy Focus: Anti-Hunger Programs and the Lame Duck Session

Decisions Made Now Will Have Long-Term Effects

November 2012

Shortly after returning from an August recess, Congress left town again to campaign. To keep the government running through the end of March, Congress passed a short-term budget agreement, leaving important legislation for after the election. During the lame duck session, Congress will attend to the farm bill, expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, the impending $1.2 trillion across-the-board spending cuts, and the nation’s long-term deficit issues.

Because Congress couldn’t agree on policy, the farm bill technically expired on October 1. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to run its programs until the end of the year. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and international food aid are secure for now because the temporary budget agreement included provisions that ensure funding for them through the end of March.

Congress will still be under pressure to act on a farm bill before the end of 2012, whether with a full five-year reauthorization or a last-minute temporary extension. Federal farm commodity price supports, which subsidize agricultural commodities, will revert to their 1949 levels if Congress fails to act by January 1, 2013.

In early August, Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), George Miller (D-Calif.), and Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) introduced H. Res. 760, a resolution rejecting cuts to SNAP in the proposed House farm bill. The resolution is nonbinding but it is an opportunity for members of Congress to show strong support for SNAP. By the end of September, Bread’s grassroots advocates helped acquire 82 cosponsors.

Bipartisan discussions are underway to develop a plan to meet the nation’s fiscal challenges. Key senators, known as the Gang of Eight, are working furiously behind the scenes to reach a deal, which they hope to unveil soon after the elections.

This is a critical moment for Bread for the World members to make their voices heard and help shape far-reaching legislation. For the sake of the country’s fiscal health and economic stability, Congress must address our long-term deficits. However, Congress must do so in a way that maintains a commitment to ending hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. The current budget discussions in Congress won’t just affect hungry and poor people this year and next year. These decisions will determine the funding for anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs for the next decade and beyond.

If there ever was a time to call for a circle of protection, it is now. We must push Congress to enact a deficit reduction plan that is balanced and bipartisan and that truly incorporates a circle of protection around funding for hungry and poor people.

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