Top | Sift

Money woes

(article, Culinate staff)

In honor of Tax Day — that's today, in case you had forgotten — let's take a brief look at two of the biggest federal money problems: the Farm Bill that expired last year, and the budget sequester that kicked in early this year. (Or, for you grammar diehards, the sequestration.)

We're currently operating under a partial extension of the 2008 Farm Bill; the extension runs through September 2013. In the meantime, here's a brief history of the 2012 Farm Bill from the National Young Farmers' Coalition — "a case study in how not to produce a bill."

As Dan Imhoff has pointed out, the Farm Bill doesn't just affect farmers; it affects all Americans who have ever used (or ever will use) SNAP, the food-stamp program. In 2012, that was one in five Americans, or some 65 million people. SNAP was recently reduced in order to partially fund the Child Nutrition Act. Both programs date back to the 1960s, and both are struggling today.

Meanwhile, the sequester has only been felt, food-wise, in possible furloughs for federal meat inspectors. But this threat never came to pass, thanks to some good old-fashioned money shuffling:

bq. The effort was joined by the National Chicken Council, the National Turkey Federation and the American Meat Institute, heavyweights of one of Washington’s powerful agriculture lobbies. In the Senate, their cause was picked up by two influential senators from strongly agricultural states: Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

bq. Those two found a solution: $55 million in new money that had been meant for other Agriculture Department programs. Blunt and Pryor wrote an amendment that would give it, instead, to the meat inspection program. This was sequester-proofing. After the sequester took its cut, the meat-inspection program would be left with almost as much money as it had before.