Notes & Noticias: Hungry Americans

Dear Friends,

This week, a hotly debated federal Farm Bill passed the US House and Senate, and now awaits President Obama’s signature to become law. This bill affects how our food is grown, and how the government helps those in need pay for groceries.

This week’s Notes and Noticias focuses on how the provisions in the Farm Bill that will affect those of us in Central Texas, especially those who struggle to put food on their family’s table.

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Hungry Americans

While I am glad Congress was able to come together and pass the Farm Bill, I am concerned that the final legislation continues many of the agricultural practices and programs that favor large-scale producers, while stripping the much-needed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to many Americans living in poverty across the country.

The cuts to SNAP benefits will affect one in seven Americans, or the 47 million people who currently participate in the program.

The bill cuts food stamps by about $8 billion over ten years, and will most significantly impact those Americans in desperate need of help to put food on their families’ tables and contribute to the American economy.

House Republicans initially wanted to cut SNAP benefits by $40 billion over ten years. While I am relieved that the final version only cuts food stamps by 20% of that amount, hungry Americans still cannot afford to lose $8 billion in benefits.

Republicans originally sought to use the farm subsidy bill as a method of cutting government spending and completely ending subsidies. The bill is eliminating a direct payment subsidy worth nearly $5 billion a year which is paid to farmers whether they farm or not.

As a method of counteracting some of this loss of payments, the bill will ensure crop insurance is cheaper and continue to pay out benefits but at lower levels. Furthermore, new subsidies would require farmers to incur losses before they could collect from the federal government.

Ultimately, we need to be providing more food assistance to hungry Americans, not less.

That’s why I’m proud to have passed a bill this past session, HB 296/SB 376, which expands access to school meals for children in poverty-stricken areas of Texas. Our children need healthy food to grow strong and succeed academically, and hard-working Texans need nutritious food to be able to contribute to our economy.

Communities in Schools

On Tuesday I had the pleasure to attend the Stand Up for Schools 2014 Luncheon with Austin Voices for Education and Youth and Save TX Schools. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear from community leaders about their ideas to enable all of our children to succeed.

One of the goals of Austin Voices for Education and Youth is to make our school facilities an open home for the community, and engage parents in the education of their children. Schools can also serve as a resource and recreation center.

Their Family Resource Centers already provide support to more than 1,200 families in some of Austin’s economically challenged school districts.

Such a partnership between the city and AISD can provide a great tax-saving opportunity, and help our community allocate more money into our children’s education.

No Mud Run – Donate Instead!

Due to cold weather, this Saturday’s Mud Run benefiting the Austin-Travis County Flood Relief Fund has been cancelled.

While you can still run around over frozen mud on your own, please consider making a donation online to support flood recovery efforts in southeast Travis County.

Thanks again for reading Notes and Noticias. I look forward to seeing you in the community.