MAZON’s Top Priorities Highlighted in Senate Agriculture Chairwoman’s Farm Bill Proposal

May 6, 2024

Last week, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow did something remarkable. She set a new standard for the Farm Bill, which is a critically important piece of legislation for those who grow food and those who struggle with hunger in America.

Chairwoman Stabenow released an outline of the “Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act” and, in doing so, she articulated a vision that will set America on the road to truly ending hunger. Her proposals are comprehensive — recognizing the complexity of hunger and the lives of those who are food insecure, offering powerful support to the nation’s nutrition safety net, and addressing the unique needs of diverse populations who struggle in America.

Importantly, this bill would protect and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our country’s most important anti-hunger program which has proven time and again to lift millions of Americans out of poverty. In contrast to other Farm Bill proposals coming out of Congress, Chairwoman Stabenow recognizes the importance of protecting future updates to the Thrifty Food Plan, which ensures that SNAP benefits will keep pace with economic realities.

Her proposal also includes several provisions that MAZON has been championing for years to improve access and equity for several populations that face barriers to receiving nutrition assistance:

  • Removing the Basic Allowance for Housing for military families seeking SNAP.

For nearly a decade, MAZON has made it a priority to understand, call attention to, and address the unique challenges of military families who struggle with food insecurity. As outlined in our comprehensive report, Hungry in the Military, much of the problem stems from a procedural barrier to assistance: counting a service member’s housing allowance as income in determining whether they can receive SNAP. Without being able to access SNAP, military families must quietly turn to food pantries that operate on or near every single military base in the U.S. for help. Beyond the moral failure, this presents an issue for mission readiness, troop retention, and future recruitment. Learn more.

  • Authorizing Puerto Rico to transition away from its inadequate Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP).

Despite their status as United States citizens, Congress cut Puerto Rico from SNAP in 1981 and replaced it with the limited and under-funded NAP program. This disparity means that food assistance is capped at a set funding level instead of automatically expanding and contracting, like SNAP does, as need fluctuates. Under NAP, when more Puerto Ricans apply for assistance, they receive fewer benefits per household. And NAP provides significantly less financial support — SNAP maximum allotments are roughly twice the NAP maximum benefit. This leaves Puerto Ricans uniquely vulnerable to food insecurity during natural disasters. For example, in 2017 after the devastation of Hurricane María, those facing hunger in Puerto Rico had to wait six months to receive life-saving support. Unlike SNAP, which allows states to automatically react when hunger rises due to natural disasters, NAP requires a vote from Congress to appropriate extra funds for emergency relief. The people of Puerto Rico must be able to access the same nutrition assistance as their fellow American citizens living in the states. Learn more.

  • Strengthening Tribal food sovereignty by allowing more Tribes to administer nutrition programs.

While about one in four Native Americans participate in SNAP, and many others participate in a commodity program called the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), many Indigenous communities face hunger because the federal government bars Tribes from administering critical nutrition programs themselves. Tribes and Indigenous communities want to address food insecurity on their own terms, and they need the resources and autonomy for a self-determined, food-secure future. Learn more.

There is no doubt that these proposals reflect the vital role that SNAP plays as an anti-hunger program – its longtime stated purpose.  That purpose was sabotaged by far right members of the House during the debt ceiling crisis who recast SNAP as a work program – something it has never been. We are committed to making certain that Sen. Stabenow’s vision is again reflected in the purpose of SNAP.  At a time when over 44 million Americans struggle with hunger, and rising consumer prices threaten to force even more people into food insecurity, Chairwoman Stabenow has proposed a Farm Bill that is a meaningful and moving recognition of the best of who we are, and a vision for a future free of hunger for all Americans. Please join MAZON in action as we urge the full U.S. House and Senate to immediately advance this proposal.