Yesterday, Congress passed the 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Bill or “minibus” as it has come to be called. The good news is that cuts to both national and international nutrition programs were not as severe as originally expected. The bad news is, poverty is still at record levels and there is still more we can do to help those in need.
Over the past few weeks, Sojourners activists have sent thousands of emails to Congress urging them not to cut poverty focused foreign aid. While that fight continues, the passage of this bill -- without any major cuts to vital programs for poor and hungry people -- is an important step.
Our friends at Bread for the World are reporting:
Domestically, funding for the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) exceeded both House and Senate proposals. WIC received $6.618 billion in funding—higher than both the House and Senate funding levels and enough to cover current and projected caseloads. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which primarily serves low-income seniors, was funded at the Senate level of $176.8 million, enough to continue serving existing caseloads.
Funding for international programs also fared better than expected. Congress voted to fund the Public Law 480 Title II program, which provides emergency food assistance in the most vulnerable areas of the world, at $1.466 billion. This reflects the increased demand for humanitarian assistance due to unprecedented drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program was funded at $184 million, ensuring that school children in the poorest countries of the world will at least have a meal. Unfortunately, Congress was unable to provide higher funding for these programs without violating budget caps agreed to earlier as part of a deal to reduce the federal deficit.
The supercommittee is still set to report next week on a plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit over the next ten years. Many effective anti-poverty programs could be at stake. Large corporations and wealthy interests won’t blink. They will continue to make their voices heard. Politicians need to know that people of faith are standing alongside low-income and vulnerable people.