(September 2, 2011) - The downhill ride that the stock market has taken in recent weeks is said to be evidence of a general weakness in the US economy and worries about the stability of interlinked financial institutions worldwide. Over the last two-and-one-half years, we have seen the unemployment rate in the US shoot upward and remain high as job creation has not been sufficient to make a dent in the overall unemployment rate, especially when those who have given up looking for work are included.
The effects of the downturn will have an impact on the farm bill debate in two ways. First, there will likely be less money available to support the current set of farm policies that protect farmers from disasters, whether they result from production problems or low prices. Second, the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—formerly called food stamps and still called that by most people—has soared since the beginning of the economic downturn.
With increased usage, the costs of the food stamp program have doubled and will certainly be a target of budget cutters in Washington, DC. And if the past is any indication of what the debate will look like, there will be those who will try to gut significant elements in the farm portion of the legislation, pitting what they will call “wealthy farmers” against hungry children.