Posts tagged ‘Food Stamps’

Census Bureau clarifies poverty numbers – U.S. News


Census Bureau clarifies poverty numbers – U.S. News.

Officials at the U.S. Census Bureau moved Friday to clarify widely reported figures meant to estimate the number of Americans living in poverty.

Dueling Census reports – one based on official poverty estimates that was released just last week and another based on an experimental calculus used in November – differed from one another by 20 percentage points regarding the number of people viewed as living in poverty. The widely reported figure showed that one out of two Americans are in poverty or are low-income. Other Census figures put the figure closer to one out of three Americans.
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That’s because the experimental measure, a supplement to the official poverty figures meant to take into account such factors as whether a family is receiving food stamps and how much people pay in taxes, uses a poverty level of $24,343 for a family of four instead of the $21,113 used by the official measure.

Read the original story on NBCLosAngeles.com

In expensive states like California and New York, the supplemental measure classified families making as much as $32,869 as impoverished.

However, Kathleen Short, the Census Bureau economist who spearheaded the supplemental report, said it would be wrong to extrapolate from those numbers that Americans are falling into poverty at greater rates.

In fact, she said, the experimental calculation indicated that poverty among children is actually lower than the official poverty rate shows.

On Thursday, reports in multiple news outlets suggested that people making roughly twice the poverty level under the experimental program were “scraping by” and should be considered low-income.

The Census Bureau does not support that interpretation of the data, Short said.

“Below 200 percent of the poverty threshold is the lower end of the distribution,” Short said. “But we would not call it low-income per se.”

A number of news reports on Thursday correctly said that more people fell under the definition of living in poverty under the experimental calculation, but then went on to say that people making twice that would be considered low-income.

However, the practice of using such figures as “150 percent of poverty” or “200 percent of poverty” to determine whether people were of moderate or low income is a practice that grew up around the older, traditional method of identifying poverty, which uses a lower threshold.

More from NBC4 on the Census reports: Assessing poverty

In parts of California under the supplemental approach, a family that owns its own home and earns about $66,000 per year would be earning 200 percent of the poverty level, and not necessarily be considered low-income.
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NBC4, relying on figures and analysis from the Los Angeles office of the Census, reported the newer, official poverty figures on Thursday, and questioned reports that used the supplemental figures.

A widely distributed news story by the Associated Press (and published by msnbc.com) relied on the supplemental report.

“We did not misunderstand the data,” AP spokesman Jack Stokes said in an email. “The AP story was vetted by the Census Bureau in Washington.”

However, Short said that she did not agree with the news service’s conclusion that the report showed one out of two Americans to be low-income or impoverished.

Short stressed that the supplemental measure was a work in progress, and that it should not be considered a replacement for the official poverty rate.

The AP’s calculations were correct, Short said, “but I’m not agreeing with any adjectives that are placed on being in that category.”

“In fact we stressed the Census Bureau does not have a definition for low income.” Short said

In the supplemental report, “we’re not characterizing what it’s like to be below 200 percent of the poverty line,” Short said. “We don’t have any information to characterize what that would be like.”

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Eva M. Clayton: A 2012 Farm Bill That Support Small Farmers and Nutritional Assistance Programs: Good for Our Nation’s Health and Economy


 

In Friday’s Los Angeles Times, there was an opinion editorial titled “America Needs a Farm Bill That Works” — this title is precisely why I think members of Congress need to be committed to pushing forward a bipartisan piece of legislation.

A 2012 Farm Bill will help provide infrastructure, investment and economic certainty for American agriculture — things that are both important and critical for an industry that impacts all Americans, whether they live in big cities or small rural communities. But in order for the bill to be effective in providing these things, it must support small farmers and nutritional programs that are key components to the viability and health of an Agriculture economy.
Small farmers are often made the loving poster child of our rural landscape. They are a struggling, declining and aging population. According to the Economic Research Services in United States Department of Agriculture, during the last census there were over 2.1 million farms in the U.S., of which 75% earned less than $50,000 annually and had about 5% production while the very large farms, representing just 2% of all farms, made over $1 million dollars and had 47% production.
This is a problem when you consider small farmers generally produce more fruits, vegetables, nuts and sustainable food products, all of which are essential for proper nutritional sustenance. As our country continues to focus on the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet, Congress should focus on ensuring competitive opportunities for small farmers that will enable them to continue to grow the healthy food that we need. Hopefully, obesity and other health issues can be addressed through healthy food choices. Local farmers are key to producing healthy foods and it will also increase their income.
Similar to the focus that is put on educating students in science and math to fill voids in those growing fields, Congress should support programs to recruit future farmers and ensure a growing and diverse industry in the future. The average U.S. farmer is 57 years old and just 5% of all farmers are 35 years or younger. Not to mention, just 4.6% of all U.S. farms are minority-owned and run. To say that there is room for improvement would be a gross understatement — we need to find creative ways attract new entrepreneurial and innovative farmers from all demographics. Congress and the present Administration recently addressed the lingering discrimination cases initiated by black farmers. However, constant vigilance is required to overcome the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) history of discrimination and to ensure equity for all farmers.
Additionally, upon examination of the payments to large farmers as compared to small farmers, the difference is vast. The commodity payments are tied to the production of specific commodities. These payments go primarily to large commercial producers. As a result, few of the smallest farms receive commodity payments.
In the 2008 farm bill, Congress did institute a number of new initiatives and expand other initiatives that encouraged local farmers to grow and sell food to various local vendors, including local school systems. For instance, in North Carolina, citizens are encouraged to buy locally and various grocery store chains, military bases and local schools are encouraged to purchase from local farmers. As a result, the local farm economy is benefiting and healthy foods are more accessible. We need to identify and expand smart and effective programs like this.
We also need to look for areas where we can improve. For example, the nutritional assistance programs under the farm bill are large and expensive and given the economic recovery, needed now more than ever. In September 2011, the USDA’s Economic Research Service reported that about one in every four Americans participates in at least one of the 15 domestic food and nutrition assistance programs of the USDA. These programs provide a nutritional safety net for millions of children and low-income adults. These programs also represent a significant federal investment, accounting for over two-thirds of USDA’s budget. A Moody’s study on the president’s stimulus impact noted that for every Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollar spent, it generated a $1.73 ripple effect in the economy.
The House Budget Committee, in an effort to reduce the federal budget deficit, proposed to cut SNAP significantly, possibly to its pre-2008 status — this is pennywise and pound foolish. This is not to suggest that there could not or should not be some reduction given to efficiency monitoring and other infrastructure upgrades. In addition to required financial resources, there needs to be greater use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at farmers’ and fish markets where healthy foods are sold. Nutrition education is essential and should be integrated into each of the 15 food assistance programs.
Food security is generally recognized as an important goal for our country. Supporting good nutrition for our needy citizens is the right and moral action for our government to take, but it is also the economically and healthy action to take where small farmers will make a significant impact.

Follow Eva M. Clayton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/evamclayton

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Eva M. Clayton: A 2012 Farm Bill That Support Small Farmers and Nutritional Assistance Programs: Good for Our Nation’s Health and Economy

Farm Bill 2012: Time For An Overhaul With Innovative Farming Systems


 

 

It’s time to overhaul the Farm Bill.

That’s the message conveyed in a recent policy paper featured in “Science” magazine. The authors of the paper, entitled “Transforming U.S. Agriculture,” argue that although U.S. farms have significantly increased their production yields in recent years, the environment and public health has been sacrificed.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, the lead author, Washington State University professor John Reganold said, “If mainstream, conventional farming systems were sustainable, then we would not have overdrawn aquifers, eroded and degraded soils and polluted surface and ground waters.”

“We also have concerns with farm labor working conditions and animal welfare,” Reganold added.

With those concerns in mind, some farms have striven to innovate, cultivating practices such as organic farming, conservation agriculture and grass-fed and other alternative livestock production. Some of these practices aren’t abstract or new, of course, none are yet widespread.

While a 2010 report by the U.S. National Research Council proposes both incremental and transformative methods to improve agriculture sustainability, the “Science” piece argues that ambitious approaches and systemic changes must be the primary focus, not just crop rotations and reduced tillage.

The most pressing change must be achieved on the policy level. That change can be found in the 2012 Farm Bill, the federal government’s primary agricultural and food policy tool.

“Most elements of the Farm Bill were not designed to promote sustainability,” the “Science” report read. Subsidies have made our food system too dependent on a few grain crops, such as corn and soybeans, which are ultimately used for over-processed food and animal feed. Such an industrial food system damages the environment, and it also damages human health.

Or, as Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Elizabeth Kucinich described in her HuffPost blog, “The beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies laid out in this legislation are the corporations that convert crops like corn into corn syrup and soy into feed for the cows and pigs who end up in a McDonald’s wrapper.”

Reganold and his co-authors suggest the Farm Bill be altered with a reduction in spending on subsidy programs that hide the risks associated with conventional production systems. In other words, we need to stop paying people to damage our land and our health.

Instead, the report’s authors suggest the funds go to farming systems that embrace sustainability by protecting the environment, farmers and communities while still providing abundant and affordable food.

Mark Bittman voiced similar sentiments in the New York Times, arguing, “What subsidies need is not the ax, but reform that moves them forward. Imagine support designed to encourage a resurgence of small- and medium-size farms producing not corn syrup and animal-feed but food we can touch, see, buy and eat – like apples and carrots – while diminishing handouts to agribusiness and its political cronies.”

The next Farm Bill is designated for 2012. “They’re working on it right now,” Reaganold warned. “It may be in place this time next year. There’s a lot of lobbyists that influence that bill, so if people can contact their senate and congressional leaders, I would recommend it.”

Reganold clarified that parts of the Farm Bill are fine, but other aspects, specifically the crop subsidies, need restructuring. “We want that money reallocated to encourage innovative farming systems,” he added, “and to encourage sustainability brand products in the marketplace.”

“Now is the time … Once we get to early 2012, it might be too late,” he said. “The decision will be already made. So this is the year. This year is the time for people to contact their representatives.”

Not everyone believes transformative solutions can or should be achieved. Agriculture giant Cargill, Inc. emailed The Huffington Post stating that global food security “is a central challenge of our times, and conventional agriculture has to be part of the answer.” A portion of their statement read:

We recognize there are different approaches and merits to conventional and organic agriculture. However, taking organic to the scale of commercial would require three times the amount of land to feed our rapidly growing world population, which would create its own set of environmental consequences.

The Alliance for Food and Farming, a non-profit organization deemed by some independent media and environmental groups to be an “industry front group,” wrote in an e-mail to The Huffington Post:

In our experience, these farmers– both those who farm conventional and organically-grown products–generally do practice sustainable farming methods. One of the problems with the word “sustainable” is there are many definitions which go beyond “certified organic” farming.

After detailing ways their farmers engage in positive practices, the organization’s statement concluded, “All of these are tenets of sustainable farming and it is a shame that conventional farmers are not being recognized for their significant efforts in this arena.”

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Reganold acknowledges that the biggest critics of the report will be supporters of conventional agriculture, some from the corporate agri-business and big farms. But, as Reganold explained, “It’s not that big farms are bad. Big farms can be good. We have some innovative large farms. But most large mainstream farms are mainly conventional, and those farms could be more sustainable.”

Consumers, too, can affect change, most notably by changing their shopping habits. Markets already notice a shift in demand, as more people look for food that considers animal welfare, worker safety and local and organic practices.

“People can vote with their dollars,” Reaganold added. “And they can eat a lot better. They can eat whole grain foods and more vegetables, basically a more plant-based diet that puts less of a strain on our agricultural system.”

“You can make a difference,” he said. “You have an impact.”

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The White Myth: That BLACK PEOPLE Love Living On Government Issued FOOD STAMPS


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A deconstruction of the theory that blacks love eating on the government’s dime

Check, please!

This week, I think we’ve all devoured enough processed garbage from the current crop of GOP presidential candidates to last a lifetime.

What might amaze many critically thinking, fair-minded individuals is how often unchecked the myth of “black food stamp fraud” goes. That, somehow, truly impoverished African Americans are unashamedly proud to swipe an EBT card in a crowded supermarket, where they have no doubt felt the stinging eyes of some misinformed snob’s fraud accusation. That they could otherwise afford the food and all other living expenses with their “pocket change” paychecks.

Let’s stop and really consider what we hear incessant griping about. A family takes the initiative to seek and use the vital benefits that are available to them. We’re not talking about an Air Jordan stipend, or per diem to see a movie every weekend. We’re talking a monthly allowance to insure children (and adults) don’t go to bed, to school, or to work with growling stomachs.

Just let that marinate.

When candidates serve up red meat to their base of voters, who already cannibalize their own manufactured outrage, it’s no wonder comments like this can go over well:

An easily fooled voter might go away not only believing that African Americans make up the majority of food stamps recipients, but are also the root cause of the federal waste bankrupting the nation and decaying its moral fiber.

————-

Food Stamp Use By Race* (as of the 2010 FY)

Whites: 35% participation | 63.7% of US population

African Americans: 22% participation | 12.2% of US population

Hispanic: 10% participation | 16.3% of US population

Asian: 2% participation | 4.7% of US population

American Indian: 4% participation | 0.7% of US population

Unknown race: 19% participation | 0.2% of US population

*Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census

————-

It’s funny how “40 acres and a mule” got downgraded to food stamps, Section 8 housing and conservative white (and black) disdain. Where have we gone to in this country when feeding your family — even if with candy bars, sodas and oily potato chips – is an irresponsible and unpatriotic pursuit?

Truth is, we’ve been there since before the ending of Jim Crow. The working definition of white supremacy is the belief that the white race is superior to other races. But it’s not just a feeling of superiority. I’d like to add a sense of white immunity from the societal ills facing all creeds. Let me interject and state that I’m by no means inducting Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich into the Ku Klux Klan.

I do want to draw attention to the numbers. There are more white recipients of food stamp benefits – now aptly named the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – than there are black recipients. However, relative to their size of the population, African Americans disproportionately receive the benefits. It is a boldfaced lie to claim any group, white or black, can cause budgetary disarray if even 1 percent of that group fraudulently collected those benefits.

Why entertain that notion, as you run for the highest office in the world’s most powerful nation? If asked, Santorum and Gingrich would quickly disavow and condemn the white supremacist ideology with seasoned gusto. Instead, they choose to burn a new flaming cross into the concrete sidewalks and patchy strips of grass lining urban projects where American citizens, not just blacks, will sit down to meals paid for with EBT cards.

Pray the day when scenes out of “Precious” or “Crooklyn” aren’t the conservative Republican’s reference point for black blight. More egregiously, nobody (white or black) is going to ask these two banners of American society, Gingrich and Santorum, to apologize for demonizing the economically disadvantaged.

I won’t hold my breath for either.