New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee
Policy Alert- Partial Government Shutdown impacts
The partial government shutdown is affecting our food system in ways big and small. Here is an overview of a few ways our food system is impacted and ways to get involved.
Hunger and Nutrition:
USDA's authorization to fund SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) expired on Dec. 21, and reauthorization is pending the end of the shutdown. The agency has authority to fund the program for 30 days after authorization expires, and states have been issues guidance to issue February benefits before January 20. There is a finite pool of contingency funding available for benefits posted after that date: $3 billion, shared by all states. New and renewed applications will be funded from those funds until that money runs out, or the government re-opens.
Additionally, with 800,000 government workers furloughed or working without pay, the need for assistance has grown beyond those who are on SNAP. Food Banks and emergency feeding programs have already seen an increase in need and anticipate this to grow exponentially the longer the government is not fully operational.
Farmers and Farming:
USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) is not operating during the partial government shutdown. FSA is the largest farmer support agency providing disaster assistance, low cost loans, commodity operations, and a myriad of other programs that directly support farmers. According to department data, 35,000 farms received loans last year from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency to buy land, seed, livestock and other vital supplies. The FSA provided nearly $2.2 billion in direct and guaranteed loans for farm operations in 2018. Please note that select FSA offices will be open January 17-18, 22 for limited services.
What does this mean?
Those who receive SNAP benefits will go at least 6 weeks before getting more funds. This is very challenging for income-limited individuals and families, and will have an economic impact for the grocers, farmers and farmers markets, and other SNAP acceptance outlets. Nearly 1 in 5 people in Louisiana receives food stamps; more than 850,000 people each year, many of them families with children. In addition, with SNAP offices closed, recipients or those who are in the process of applying do not have access to anyone to answer questions or give information on statuses. Informational flyer here; please feel free to print and distributed as needed.
Food Banks and emergency food programs will be stretched to provide assistance to those who are in need. Second Harvest is directing furloughed federal workers with immediate food needs to call 1-855-392-9338 to be referred to a pantry near them. For assistance with both food and other expenses, such as utility bills or rent, individuals can call 211. More detailed information found here.
FSA money is currently unavailable due to the partial government shutdown. In addition, USDA has halted rural development loans, and grants for everything from affordable housing to infrastructure for rural broadband internet. Farmers will not be able to plan for the Spring crops with no assurance of loans or market prices. Farmers who currently have loans will not be able to make payments on these loans. This could significantly impact the economy and the food grown and sold in the United States well past the shutdown ends. More information about direct farm impacts can be found on the FSA website.
What can you do?
Contact your Senators and let them know your thoughts on these impacts. Be specific.
Senator Cassidy: 202-224-5842
Senator Kennedy: 202-224-5842
- Support local and national food banks.
- Distribute information widely about the SNAP impacts and funding changes in February.
- Support farmers through direct sales such as on-farm stands, farmers markets, CSA's.
- Spread the word about available resources.
Thank you to FPAC members Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana and Louisiana Budget Project for providing expertise and information about this important policy action.