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Hungry families face even more trying times if local congressman gets his way on farm bill

RRep. Austin Scott, R- Ga., is one of the conferees on the farm bill.
RRep. Austin Scott, R- Ga., is one of the conferees on the farm bill. ASSOCIATED PRESS

As a Catholic sister, I must speak out when my neighbors’ lives and livelihoods are threatened. So, when I saw that my congressman, Rep. Austin Scott, chose to support a version of the farm bill that takes away food from people who need it and derails the bipartisan process that our farmers rely on for economic security, I knew I couldn’t stay silent.

This month, the farm bill – which funds Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and protects farmers – expires and will need re-authorization. Historically, the farm bill has been a bipartisan bill that all can support. For the first time in our nation’s history, the House narrowly passed an entirely partisan farm bill that threatens the security of people struggling to make ends meet in Georgia. The House farm bill weakened and restructured SNAP as we know it, and is a non-starter for anyone concerned for people in poverty.

This also violates Christian teaching. Jesus teaches, “for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

SNAP is our nation’s most successful anti-hunger program. Over 1.6 million Georgians rely on SNAP to feed their families. It is our Christian duty to protect and care for those in need, but the bill Scott supported would snatch food from the mouths of children. Further, the partisan House bill puts the timeline for passage in jeopardy, thus affecting crucial supports that Georgia farmers rely on.

The House bill is wrong, but thankfully, there is another option.

Our Republican senators, David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, voted in favor of the bipartisan Senate version of the farm bill that protects our children and our farmers. It easily passed with a vote of 86-11. The Senate farm bill eliminates inefficiencies in SNAP and ensures accountability, without harming families who rely on it to put food on the table. That’s something every Georgian can support.

Perdue and Isakson recognize how crucial it is that the farm bill pass before the September deadline. Without it, some of our neighbors could go hungry and our hardworking farmers could lose their farms.

Scott is one of the conferees, working to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill to secure passage. Will Scott follow the leadership of our senators and support legislation that provides for farmers, feeds those in need, and results in timely passage of the farm bill?

Our elected leaders must come together to craft one single piece of legislation that all sides can support. The way to do that is to adopt the Senate pieces of the nutrition title so that SNAP is protected. Scott should follow the strong leadership of our two Republican senators and ensure the final version protects SNAP like the Senate bill, rather than dismantle it, as the House bill does.

Sister Joan Serda is a Sister of Mercy who lives in Macon. She is the former principal of St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Macon and the former justice coordinator for the Sisters of Mercy, Baltimore Community.