Sometimes, it seemed like a never-ending stream of, “I’m insert candidate’s name here, and I approve this message.”
But the 2012 election is over now, and in addition to re-electing President Barack Obama, Democrats held on to the majority in the U.S. Senate and the Republican Party remains the majority in the House.
What happens now in the White House and in Congress?
There are many issues: health care, education, taxes… but I will focus on an issue near and dear to our hearts: agriculture.
During President Obama’s first term he and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made a commitment to support agriculture and nutrition programs, and both have vowed to continue that commitment. In 2012 the White House was unsuccessful in negotiations with Congress to pass a five-year Farm Bill, while the President endorsed the Senate’s Bill.
Different versions of Farm Bill
The Senate Farm Bill has a total of $4.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), compared to $16 billion of cuts in the House Bill and the House version will impact program eligibility resulting in people losing some or all of their benefits.
The Senate Bill also included an extra $174 million to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The Senate bill received bi-partisan votes for passage in the Agriculture Committee and on the Senate floor.
Despite the House and Senate making progress on both versions of their bills, the Farm Bill expired on September 30, 2012. In both bills there are cuts, and cuts will remain. The difference is that the House Bill cuts $35 billion in spending and the Senate cuts $23 billion over ten years.
The prediction from many experts is that it is highly unlikely for Congress to reauthorize the Farm Bill during the current lame duck session. Therefore we should expect the Farm Bill to receive a one-year extension, with the 113th Congress working to reauthorize a five-year bill. We should expect the Republican Party to continue seeking cuts to the SNAP program.
Let’s keep moving
We should also expect the White House to continue investing in reform to combat childhood obesity through First Lady Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which brings healthy food into our nation’s school systems.
The Capital Area Food Bank would like to see the administration bring attention to the lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods, and to form a solid plan to give access to our most vulnerable neighbors.
While 2012 brings an end to election season, many issues discussed over the past year remain in limbo.
Although we will see progress in 2013, we must continue working with our legislators to inform them what their constituents find important. We must continue telling our stories, inviting elected officials to our facilities to see not only how we serve people, but to experience firsthand the reality constituents face on a daily basis. The time for progress is now, and we will move forward.