Today, we are one day closer to the “Sequestration,” the latest not so funny move in gamesmanship that Congress is playing with our economy, our well-being, and our dinner plates.
There is nothing funny about a March 1st deadline that mandates nearly $1 Trillion dollars in cuts—half from defense, and half from discretionary programs.
But, do you know how those cuts will affect you?
No one in the popular press has been looking too closely at how close to the bone the sequester will cut, but many others are. For example, our friends in governmental agencies are preparing for worst case scenarios almost matter-of-factly. After years of Continuing Resolutions, government by crisis has become a way of life. For more than a few, it’s a case of “let’s get it over with, already.”
Sad to say, for those outside governmental agencies it is more complicated and arguably much more painful.
At CFJC we are primarily concerned with provisions of the Farm Bill, which we believe can be a food bill that serves local agricultural interests, farmers-producers-and food workers alike, while making access to healthy food a reality for everyone in the country.
Instead, the Farm Bill has become a toxic football passed around by legislators beholden to special interests, and by “special interests” I do not mean, “just folks.” No, it is industry, large industry, not family farms, but agribusiness, those conglomerates that have already devastated traditional family farming in pursuit of bigger is better, that benefit from current versions of the Farm Bill. Industry that force feeds critical amounts of sugared beverages and “food” to our children and families with an unending barrage of commercial advertisements and sponsored events screaming bigger is better and more is good.
It is insane, and we know better. And there can be hope, if we demand change now.
On February 14th Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled a plan to avert the across-the-board cuts that take effect on March 1st. Predictably, Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he is not interested in brokering a last minute budget deal, and that “this is not a solution—even they know it can’t pass…”
So why bother to try? Because that should be their job.
But this message and the crisis is not about Democratic vs. Republican proposals. We believe it is about a Congress that has honestly lost its way. It is about gamesmanship gone out of control.
Personally, and not on behalf of CFJC, I believe that the country is better off and well served by opposing parties. But that is not what we now have.
I think we are witnessing a struggle about two ways of life, and the kind of country we will have.
On the one hand, we have a contingent that believe government and laws should serve industry, corporations, and the privileged rulers of a country that still purports to be “for the people.” It’s a place where “corporations are people, my friends,” as a former presidential candidate averred. Yet, I can only assume and I choose to believe that many otherwise good people believe that the privileged few actually do know what’s best for the rest of us. And that they really believe giving that class access to more power and wealth—in the form of subsidies and private military contracts—ensures the rest of us will eventually somehow be taken care of.
On the other hand, we can have government for people, via the messy business of a legislative process that allows for discussion, debate, compromise and sometimes even consensus. But we haven’t seen much of that for more than a year, and it hasn’t been that much better in recent years.
So in a rare case of what the legislative process used to be, and what it still could encompass, we have Sen. Reid’s proposal. This farm bill component of a new “American Family Economic Protection Act” proposal is part of a larger package of spending cuts and revenue increases proposed as an alternative to the knee jerk approach of the sequestration deficit reduction approach.
The Reid proposal would end direct payments and restore the farm bill programs that were left out of the farm bill extension portion of the fiscal cliff deal, programs for renewable energy, rural small businesses, value-added agriculture, new and beginning farmers, conservation, specialty crops, organic farming, minority farmers, and local food producers. It would reverse changes made with that ridiculous fiscal cliff deal, and also includes a new provision for immediate funding for livestock disaster assistance. Of special concern to many CFJC members and to CFJC staff is full restoration of SNAP-ed funding.
You may know or remember that with the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills Congress adopted a set of programs that gradually formed the foundation for a new food system. The emerging food system which was actually a small but growing portion of the overall Farm Bill has/had the potential to enhance equity for our country’s diverse producers and food and farmworkers. It had elements to secure a future in agriculture for new entry farmers and rural, urban and tribal communities, and provide fresh, local food for all consumers.
Now, doesn’t that seem like something to fight for?
If you believe as we do that sane fiscal and farm and food policy is something to fight for, then your time has come.
Let’s not wait for March 1st to come and go with either draconian cuts to programs that feed our families and our children, that provide education and first responder services to our communities, and so much more, or yet one more insane attempt to delay accountability.
Let’s not wait for a Congress that has forgotten who it serves to either kick the can down the road, or come up with the latest in a string of embarrassing self-inflicted wounds, that actually holds them individually harmless, and harms those least able to defend and care for themselves in our families, our communities and our country.
The time for watching the talking heads on tv discuss our governmental (not just fiscal) crisis is over. Our country is not a reality show.
As the old bumper sticker once said, “If you’re not pi**ed off, then you’re not paying attention.”
I want to give a shout out to the GOAT process, to NSAC, the Rural Coalition, the National Family Farm Coalition and the many others from whom I’ve drawn the intel for this message. At the same time, I take sole and full responsibility for what I have written. My aim is to give a kick in the ass, to motivate you to make noise, to ask questions, and to demand and get answers.
Again with the question, do you know how those cuts will affect you?
Find out, demand answers, and get your friends, family and neighbors to do the same.
If this is still a country of and for the people, it should be unthinkable that Congress continues to act like kids caught with their hands in a cookie jar who can only say, “Who me? I didn’t do it!”
Yes they did, and they should be held accountable.
For more on what you can do, please visit our website or the sites of any of our partners, or the group of your choice that is already doing what they can in this struggle for the soul of our country.
And once again, on behalf of the CFJC staff and volunteers, thank you for your personal commitment to the health and well-being of communities across the country.
For those of you who haven’t done so already, please, if you are able, consider clicking on this link to make a contribution to the Community Food and Justice Coalition, so that we can continue to speak out and work on your behalf.
Community Food and Justice Coalition