June 26, 2018

As Senate Debates Farm Bill, Gillibrand Speaks On Senate Floor To Urge Colleagues To Support Struggling Dairy Producers And Protect And Expand SNAP Benefits For Millions Of Low-Income Children

**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today took to the Senate floor to lay out two of her most important priorities for this year’s Farm Bill, which is currently under consideration by the Senate. Gillibrand urged her colleagues to reject the House Farm Bill proposal that increases work requirements and paperwork burdens for many of the more than 40 million Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to feed their families. Gillibrand introduced two amendments to the Senate Farm Bill: The SNAP for KIDS Act, which would expand SNAP to help feed more children from low-income families, and a provision that would provide immediate emergency financial assistance to struggling dairy farmers in New York State and across the country.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered: 

Mr. President, I rise to speak about the Farm Bill.

Something that we have in common, something that both of our states know is really important for this country’s economy.

This legislation is one of the most important chances we have in this chamber, to address one the most pressing issues in rural parts of our country right now.

I want to speak about two of my most urgent priorities for this year’s Farm Bill, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting them.

The first is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which most of us call SNAP.

There are 40 million Americans who rely on SNAP every day. More than 40 million people who go hungry if they didn’t have access to SNAP.

Many of these Americans are disabled. Many of them are elderly and retired. Nearly half of them are children.

And millions of them – and I truly mean millions – are working.

Congress should not take SNAP away from hardworking Americans just because they don’t fill out monthly paperwork.

But last week, the House passed its own version of the Farm Bill that would do just that. 

This is shameful.

Here’s the truth about SNAP: The vast majority of able-bodied adults on SNAP are already working. They are already working.

They have jobs. Many of them work several jobs. They’re doing everything they can to get ahead and just to have a small slice of that American dream.

They still need SNAP. They need SNAP because their wages are too low.

And, to be clear, they already have to follow the work requirements.

They have work requirements in place since 1971.

But the Farm Bill would just add more red tape. More paperwork for struggling families, just so they can eat dinner.

Now this is the difference between the House Farm Bill and the Senate Farm Bill. The Senate Farm Bill got it right, the House Farm Bill has created this terrible, terrible requirement of paperwork just to get SNAP.

One of our House colleagues said that it is to promote self-sufficiency – as if low-income workers on SNAP aren’t already working every waking hour just to scrape by.

Mr. President, the House plan is just a blatant example of how out-of-touch Congress is about poverty in this country.

And it’s shameful that some members of the House from my own state would even support this cruel plan, when so many New Yorkers rely on SNAP every single day.

I am happy that the Senate Farm Bill has more heart than that.

The bill that came out of Committee shows respect for all hardworking families who need SNAP.

Now we need to take it a step further, to do even more to help hungry children.

I am introducing an amendment to the Senate Farm Bill called the SNAP for KIDS Act. It would increase the amount of SNAP funding that families with kids in school are allowed to receive.

If we can pass this amendment, we would help families stretch their food budgets just a few more days at the end of every month, when they need it most, before their next paycheck comes in.

And we would help keep millions of children in this country from going hungry.

And that should be a priority here – protecting children – for all of us.

I have two young children, Mr. President, and I know that many of our colleagues in this chamber also have young children too.

Our children will never have to have access to SNAP to get basic nutrition. They will never know what it’s like to wake up hungry because their parents didn’t have enough food to feed them a nutritious dinner.

And I believe at my core that we need to care about other people’s children as much as we care about our own.

So I urge my colleagues to do what’s right, and support the SNAP for KIDS Act.

Let’s reject the House of Representatives cruel plan, and commit ourselves to protecting SNAP, instead of destroying it.

The second issue I want to talk about today, Mr. President, is the issue of dairy prices.

My home state of New York is one of the biggest producing dairy states in the country.

We are blessed with thousands of dairy farms, and even more hardworking men and women who wake up before the sun comes up every single day, to produce milk that keeps our families healthy.

Unfortunately, over the last few years, our dairy farmers have taken a serious hit from persistently low dairy prices.

Many of our dairy farms are operating below their cost of production.

Over the last decade, dairy farms all over New York have actually ha to shut down because of this crisis. Many are currently on the brink of failing.

This is what one dairy farmer said, quote: “It’s stressful. Do I want to wake up and lose $30,000 dollars a day?”

Imagine the pain our dairy farmers and their families suffer when they wake up before dawn, every day, without a break, and they still can’t make ends meet and provide for their own children.

Imagine the heartbreak and the depression of the last dairy farmer in a family – the one who has to sell the farm despite generations of hard work because he just can’t make ends meet.

This is a crisis, right in our own backyard.

It’s hurting our agriculture economy, it’s hurting our rural communities, and most of all, it’s hurting our farmers and their families.

One big reason is that our dairy insurance program just didn’t work.

I’ve heard from dairy farmers all across New York who have been essentially ripped off by the dairy insurance program, because the program failed to cover our farmers when they needed it the most – when milk prices have plummeted.

Our dairy farmers need a lifeline, and I was very proud to add a provision in the Senate Farm Bill for $77 million dollars of those premiums to be returned.

This is great news for our dairy farmers, but there’s still so much more we can do.

So I asked the Secretary of Agriculture for emergency funding to address this issue now.

But he refuses to help our dairy farmers.

So, Mr. President, I’m introducing an amendment that would require the Department of Agriculture to help our dairy farmers with emergency funding now.

I’m asking the Secretary of Agriculture for the exact same amount of funding that he just gave cotton farmers across this country when they were struggling.

The USDA should be fair, and treat our dairy farmers with the same, same support.

I want this emergency funding to go directly to those farmers who need it, so they can keep producing milk without going bankrupt, long enough for the industry to come together to balance supply, and for Congress to create a fairer milk pricing system.

And I urge my colleagues to support this amendment too. This affects all of us.

I know you believe, Mr. President, that our farmers work hard every day. They need our support. I urge all of us to stand with them.

I yield the floor.