Urgent: call your Senators about the Farm Bill

Clean radishes

Clean radishes

Here’s a breaking news update on the Senate Farm Bill and the latest message (from the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition) to deliver to our Senators. Please pick up a phone to call Senators Cantwell and Murray.

Please share this information with your networks:

Farm Bill Process
The Senate began their debate of amendments to the Farm Bill yesterday morning. Unfortunately, they missed their biggest and best opportunity to help hungry families and seniors by rejecting the Gillibrand amendment that would have eliminated the $4.1 billion cut to SNAP. Senator Murray co-sponsored the amendment and Senator Cantwell voted for the amendment. But in the end, the amendment failed to get 50 votes on the Senate floor, ultimately defeated by a vote of 26 yeas to 70 nays.

If there’s a bright side to this, the Senate also defeated a number of even more damaging amendments proposed by Senator Roberts that would have tried to instill many of the cuts proposed in the House Bill, including an amendment that would have greatly restricted Categorical Eligibility and eliminated Heat and Eat entirely.

Additionally, Senator Brown has introduced an amendment that will be debated on the floor that would add $10 million to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program as well as add funds to other programs that help farmers markets and increase access to nutritious, locally sourced produce. This is an effort that we support since the Senior FMNP helps low-income seniors have access to the fresh produce that they need to stay healthy in body and mind, but $10 million will be a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the cut to SNAP — our first-line defense against hunger.

Even if this amendment is added to the bill, the Senate will be voting on a final package as soon as tonight, or possibly tomorrow morning, that will cut SNAP by over $4 billion — a cut that will take $90 per month out of the SNAP benefits for 232,000 households in Washington.

Tell Senators: Support the Brown Amendment but Vote NO on the Final Farm Bill
Call Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray now and ask them to support the Brown amendment. Let them know that we support adding funding to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, because if the cuts to SNAP proposed in this Farm Bill take effect, then we need to make sure that seniors have all the assistance they can get to have access to nutritious food that they can’t otherwise afford on a fixed income.

We need this amendment to get the final Farm Bill package in the best shape in can be should it pass the rest of the Senate, but in the end, we still need our Senators to vote NO to the final Farm Bill package, because the proposed cuts to SNAP are unconscionable. No Farm Bill this year is better than living with the consequences of a Farm Bill that slashes SNAP and as a result, increases poverty for hungry families with children and seniors. The Senate can always go back to the drawing board and save their yes vote for a Farm Bill that does not make unconscionable cuts to SNAP.

Senator Murray: 1.866.481.9186
Senator Cantwell: 1.202.224.3441

•    Vote YES on the Brown amendment to increase funding for Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
•    Even if that amendment passes, vote NO on the final Farm Bill because of the unconscionable cut to SNAP — our first line of defense against hunger.

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Keeping Perspective after a Tough Election

(Editor’s Note: Marcy Bowers is the Membership and Communications Coordinator for the Statewide Poverty Action Network, a program of Solid Ground that works to build grassroots power to end the root causes of poverty and create opportunities for everyone to prosper.)

Volunteer canvassers in Tacoma

I confess. I’m an eternal optimist. I believe in crazy notions like “things will always get better,” and “there is always something gained, even when things go wrong.” I think this is what drove me to choose a career in organizing, what has kept me in this field for the past eight years, and what allows me to keep going in the face of devastating election losses.

This year in Washington, voters faced a record seven statewide ballot measures. Of those seven measures, three (I-1098, I-1053, and I-1107) will directly impact our state’s ability to balance the budget without making drastic cuts to the programs and services that people depend on to survive.

Reflecting a national wave of anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric, those three measures decidedly “went wrong:”

• I-1098 would have created a limited income tax on Washington’s wealthiest 1%, bringing in over $2 billion a year for healthcare and education. It failed, 65% to 35%.

• I-1053, this year’s Tim Eyman disaster, will require a two-thirds vote in the legislature or a vote of the people to raise taxes or close corporate tax loopholes. In this economy, this measure will surely mean more budget cuts. It passed, 65% to 35%

• I-1107 repealed a small tax on soda, bottled water, candy and gum that Poverty Action and other advocates passed during last year’s legislative session. These taxes would have brought in $300 million a year for schools, kids’ health care, domestic violence and sexual assault services, and many other basic services. It passed, 62% to 38%.

So, let’s get back to that optimism thing. How in the world can I possibly be optimistic when Washington is facing another $4.5 billion budget deficit and voters just repealed taxes and made it nearly impossible to raise revenue in 2011? How can I possibly be hopeful knowing that, as a result, Washington State is poised to be the first state to cut prescription drug benefits for people on Medicaid?

Canvassers' toolkit: clipboard and educational materials

To be honest, there’s not a lot of hope to be found if I only look at those daunting questions. For me, it’s about taking a wider view of election organizing and remembering that elections are only partly about the issues on the ballot. I became an organizer to help build political power in low-income communities, not just to pass or defeat ballot measures. The work of building political power is simply too big and too important to achieve in just one election season. It’s about the process of building trust and community, engaging new and infrequent voters, registering voters whose right to vote was recently restored, and talking to people about why their vote matters and how issues on the ballot will impact their communities.

Even with devastating election losses, I can still be proud of the work Poverty Action did this year to register over 1,200 new voters. I can still find hope in the knowledge that we reached out to 12,000 voters in low-income communities and communities of color and talked about the real impact of this year’s ballot measures on their communities. I will be encouraged when I remember that the building blocks to real political power are found in the countless conversations we had at transitional housing facilities, in food bank lines, and at resource fairs this summer and fall.

And those numbers and conversations matter. In a state where gubernatorial elections have been decided by just 133 votes (Gregoire in 2004), 1,200 newly registered voters, armed with knowledge and ownership of their role in state politics, can easily decide the outcome of future statewide elections in Washington. From my perspective, it’s hard to not feel optimistic about that!

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