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2018 Farm Bill will punish those on food assistance, reward corporate agriculture and continue to take advantage of unjust immigration policies

June 22, 2018

The US House of Representatives passed the 2018 Farm Bill, with a vote of 213 – 211.

The 2018 version of the Farm Bill, will continue to perpetuate an agribusiness-driven food system, by providing massive subsidies. Large, agribusiness growers will continue to benefit from the 2018 Farm Bill, while small farmers and farmers that practice diverse, ecologically sustainable methods will not be recipients of taxpayer support.

Like the 2014 Farm Bill, the 2018 version will include significant cuts to $867 Billion piece of legislation. The House farm bill includes cuts of more than $20 billion in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits over 10 years. The legislation also contains provisions that could see more than 2 million low-income Americans lose their benefits or experience declines in financial assistance. 

These cuts to food assistance is just one more attack against working class people and those experiencing poverty. However, the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill also adds addition work requirements to people who receive food assistance. These requirements stipulate that able-bodied individuals aged 18-59 to participate in employment training or work a minimum of 20 hours a week. Once again, the Farm Bill provides a massive amount of welfare to corporate agribusiness, but punishes families who need food assistance.

Then there is the issue of how our food assistance relies on low wage migrant workers and unjust immigration policies. For decades US immigration policy has been punishing immigrants, especially from Latin America, yet the current agribusiness system is completely dependent on immigrant farm labor. In a recent online post, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy provides some important analysis of how immigration policies and agriculture are connected: 

It’s no secret that US agriculture is suffering from a labor shortage. The American Farm Bureau estimates that $60 billion in agricultural production could be lost just this year if enough workers are not found. This is not new. Farm labor has always been low-wage work, and has depended on migratory workers for its sustenance. When other jobs are in demand, the workforce dries up. Farm labor has also been tied up in the politics of racism since colonial times. From slavery, to the exclusion of the predominantly black agricultural (and domestic) workforce from the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, which allowed private sector workers to unionize, to the Braceros program of the early and mid-20th Century. When that program was being debated, a Chamber of Commerce spokesman testified to Congress, “We, gentlemen, are just as anxious as you are not to build the civilization of California or any other western district upon a Mexican foundation. We take him because there is nothing else available.” Agribusiness and large-scale agriculture has used whatever means necessary to create a brown-skinned underclass that supplies cheap labor. Grounded in that history, the Goodlatte Bill continues to further erode protections for an already weakly-protected workers. It is no surprise, given their record of racism, that the Trump administration is seeking to continue in this vein.

The US Senate will now vote on the 2018 Farm Bill and we will have to wait and see if they adopt the same provisions of the House version. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is the ranking member of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee and has already received high praise from the agribusiness sector for continuing to support massive subsidies to corporate agriculture, such as the Michigan Farm Bureau and other agribusiness associations. 

Senator Stabenow, like the other members of the Agriculture Committee, receive lots of pressure and lots of money from the Agribusiness sector to make sure that their interests are being represented. The Agricultural sector has already contributed over $50 million in the current election cycle to buy votes and candidates. 

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