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House Task Force Holds Public Forum on Farm Bill Reauthorization

On Thursday, the House Task Force on Agriculture and Nutrition in the 21st Century held a public forum with national food and agriculture stakeholders to discuss their priorities for 2023 farm bill reauthorization. Under the leadership Rep. Bennie Thompson, the purpose of the task force is “to ensure farmers have the resources needed to thrive in the 21st century and push back aggressively on attacks on essential programs that address food security.” 

The farm bill priorities shared by the various stakeholders representing farmers and farm workers, the food industry, and environmental groups, ranged from preserving nutrition and food security to strengthening the economy and national security through agriculture to providing financial stability for farmers and protections for farm workers.

A priority of many of the stakeholders at the public forum—and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA—is protecting food and nutrition programs funded by the farm bill, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), and Meals on Wheels. These entities provide critical assistance for millions of people, especially children and older Americans. The task force members discussed the need for equity in food and nutrition programs, highlighting that while people of all races and economic backgrounds benefit, most recipients of food and nutritional benefits are white, and the food disparities for people of color continue to widen.

According to the National Farmers Union, farmers receive only 14 cents for every dollar spent on food. The stakeholders discussed access to education, capital, and land as critical ways to improve the American agricultural system and provide support for young and disadvantaged farmers, especially Black farmers who have been institutionally discriminated against systematically through farm and land loss, credit discrimination, over loan collateralization, and exclusion from credit and conservation programs. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a financial assistance program to support Black farmers and others who have experienced discrimination in farm lending programs prior to January 2021. To learn more about the program, or to apply, visit the application website.

During the forum, task force members restated their commitment, developing a 2023 farm bill reauthorization that meets the needs of all Americans, particularly those suffering from food insecurity. “Hunger is a policy choice, we are policymakers, and we have the ability to make different choices,” said Rep. Jahana Hayes who serves as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Nutrition, Foreign Agriculture and Horticulture.

The members of Congress appointed to the task force are Rep. Bennie Thompson, Chair Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Chellie Pingree, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Lou Correa, Rep. Sharice Davids, Rep. Josh Harder, Rep. Jahana Hayes, and Rep. Kim Schrier.

Biden Administration Announces $39 Billion in Student Loan Forgiveness for Qualifying Borrowers

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released a statement announcing that it will forgive the loans of more than 800,000 borrowers who are eligible for income-driven repayment (IDR) loan forgiveness plan for a total of $39 billion.

The Department of Education will contact borrowers “who have reached the necessary forgiveness threshold (20 or 25 months of qualifying payments) as a result of receiving credit toward IDR forgiveness for any of the following periods:

·       Any period in which a borrower spent 12 or more consecutive months in forbearance;

·       Any month in forbearance for borrowers who spent 36 or more cumulative months in forbearance; 

·       Any month spent in deferment (except for in-school deferment) prior to 2013; and

·       Any month spent in economic hardship or military deferments on or after January 1, 2013.”

The Biden administration has approved more than $116.6 billion in loan forgiveness for more than 3.4 million borrowers, according to the Department of Education.