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Letter on Amendments to Farm Bill

June 19, 2012

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association we would like to express our views on several amendments expected to be offered to the Farm Bill (S. 3240).  Specifically, we urge you to:

  • Vote YES on amendment #2455 by Senator Murray, which would require the Office of Management and Budget to provide information on the impact of sequestration on both Defense AND Non-Defense Discretionary accounts.
  • Vote YES on amendment #2156 by Senator Gillibrand to restore a $4.5 billion cut to SNAP and invest $500 million in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program.
  • Vote NO on amendment #2166 by Senator Rubio, which would undermine collective bargaining agreements.  

Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Program for the 112th Congress. 

NEA supports amendment #2455 by Senator Murray.  This important amendment calls on the Office of Management and Budget to submit a detailed report to Congress on the effects of defense and nondefense budget sequestration for fiscal year 2013.  Sequestration would slash across a broad swath of our federal budget—from the Pentagon, to our border security, to education funding, and to support for middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans. To date, non-defense discretionary spending, despite making up a small fraction of the federal budget, has taken a disproportionate hit toward debt reduction.  At the same time, those most able to pay their fair share have yet to be asked to do so.  Ensuring a balanced approach to the budget and deficit reduction requires Congress to have as much information as possible about the potential impact of sequestration cuts on all parts of the federal budget. 

We also support amendment # 2156 by Senator Gillibrand, which would restore cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and invest in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program.  S. 3240 currently reduces the ability of states to take part in the “Heat and Eat” program, resulting in a SNAP cut of $4.5 billion over 10 years.  Specifically, the bill would limit states’ ability to coordinate the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and SNAP benefits, and, counter-intuitively, reduce SNAP benefits for households eligible for but receiving the smallest, least adequate LIHEAP benefits. According to the Congressional Budget Office, these cuts would cause an estimated 500,000 households a year to lose $90 per month in SNAP benefits.    

NEA members know first-hand that hungry children cannot learn, and that access to an adequate and healthy diet is essential to academic success.  Yet, far too many children lack consistent access to an adequate, nutritious diet.  Hungry children are often irritable, feel ill, and lack concentration.  In contrast, students who come to class well-nourished have fewer behavioral and attendance problems, and have higher test scores.  

In these difficult economic times, food assistance programs are even more critical for children and families:

  • 2.7 million more children lived with an unemployed parent during a typical month in 2011, compared to 2007 (an increase of 71%), bringing the 2011 total to 6.5 million children; 
  • 3 million (47% of those living with an unemployed parent) lived, during a typical 2011 month, with a parent unemployed six months or longer;
  • 8 million more additional children relied upon SNAP for food in 2011, compared to 2007, bringing the total number of children receiving SNAP to 21 million (one in four);
  • 16 million children (more than one in five) currently live in poverty. (The Recession’s Ongoing Impact on America’s Children: Indicators of Children’s Economic Well-Being Through 2011, Julia Isaacs, Brookings Institution, December 2011.  ) 

Finally, NEA opposes amendment #2166 by Senator Rubio, which would implement his RAISE Act.  This misnamed proposal would give employers the right to ignore collectively bargained agreements and grant pay increases to selected members of a bargaining unit.  Under current law, unions and employers can, and often do, link pay increases to performance and allow for merit-based pay increases. Nothing in the RAISE Act, however, ties pay increases to individual performance.  Rather, the proposal simply eliminates built-in protections against favoritism and arbitrary action by employers.  

We thank you for your attention to these important issues. 

 Sincerely,

Kim Anderson
Director, Center for Advocacy

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations