Trump food program letter: Treat or trick?

Herb Strentz reports on how central Iowa food banks are handling an unprecedented letter from the president in boxes for the needy. -promoted by Laura Belin

Halloween will soon be upon us, and there is a “trick or treat” aspect to a flap involving President Donald Trump. I’m not referring to his planned campaign rally at the Des Moines airport, but to a controversy surrounding aid to our nation’s hungry.

Here’s the deal: Given that COVID-19 has cost farmers much of their commercial market and exacerbated food insecurity for millions of people, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advanced a $4 billion Farmers to Families Food Box Program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

Here’s the misdeal: The boxes that program provides to food banks around the nation–and then to food pantries– now include a letter in English and Spanish and adorned by the usual grandiose signature of Donald J. Trump. He takes a measure of credit for the program and writes, “I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.”

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Lessons learned from our giving table

Todd Struthers chronicles “what went right, what went wrong, and the lessons we’ve learned running our 4H Giving Table in Waukee.” -promoted by Laura Belin

It started for us on May 26. The idea came from a post by Andy Slavitt, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama. He linked to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch titled, “After losing loved ones to virus, Maplewood woman makes her yard a lifeline for others.” 

Slavitt occasionally showcases people doing good in these “difficult times,” to quote an overused phrase. The feature was about a cancer survivor named Shana Poole-Jones, who lives in the suburbs of St Louis. She had family who died or had gotten sick with COVID-19, and she had created these grab and go tables where people can drop off or pick up food or toys. 

One thing she said resonated with me: “I realize that I’m a broken person and most of the people who to the table are broken right now. But all the broken pieces pieces come together and make a soft of community to survive this.”

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Outliers

Stacey Walker has chaired the Linn County Board of Supervisors since January. He delivered this State of the County Address on May 8. -promoted by Laura Belin

It is with great pride that I stand before you today, with the awesome task of presenting the state of the county address: an occasion I’m sure everyone here has been looking forward to since the date was announced. I know in my heart that you’re all here because you want to be, and not because your employer bought a table and needed it to be filled.

My sincere thanks to the women and men of the League of Women Voters for doing the hard work of organizing this event – and many others – designed to keep the general public informed of and engaged in the happenings of our democracy. You all are heroes.

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Five Senate bills target Iowans on public assistance

Matt Chapman has attended Iowa House and Senate subcommittee meetings nearly every day. These bills were among the most significant he has tracked lately. -promoted by Laura Belin

Over the past week, Iowa Senate subcommittees considered five bills drafted to address fraud in Iowa public assistance programs. Each bill would direct revenue generated by Iowa taxpayers to private vendors, who are charged with finding fraudulent claims. If investigation supports the claims of fraud, those funds could be recovered, and criminal charges filed.

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Iowa political reaction to final passage of Farm Bill

All four Iowans voted yes as the U.S. House sent a new five-year Farm Bill to President Donald Trump on December 12. A day after passing the U.S. Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, the conference committee agreement sailed through the lower chamber by 369 votes to 47 (roll call).

Farm Bills have typically received strong support from both parties, thanks to a grand bargain struck decades ago, putting food assistance and agriculture-related subsidies and programs in the same legislation. This year’s initial House bill was an exception, as Republicans tried to impose work requirements on Americans in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. House and Senate negotiators wisely removed that language from the final version.

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Grassley, Ernst part ways on five-year Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate approved a new five-year Farm Bill today by 87 votes to 13, sending the conference committee compromise to the U.S. House. The final version rejected efforts to undermine food assistance programs, which House Republicans had approved this summer. Provisions affecting conservation, the environment, and rural communities were a mixed bag; the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Center for Rural Affairs summarized the key points.

Iowa’s senators have rarely voted differently in the past four years, especially on major legislation. But today Senator Chuck Grassley was among the thirteen Republicans to oppose the new Farm Bill. Though he acknowledged some positive features, Grassley could not get past the failure to impose “hard caps on what any one farmer can get,” a reform he’s advocated for many years. He also blasted a “new gimmick” that “makes more subsidies available to the wealthiest farmers and many non-farmers.”

In contrast, Senator Joni Ernst hailed a “farmer-focused” bill containing several bipartisan provisions she co-sponsored.

I enclose below a video and transcript of Grassley’s speech explaining his vote, as well as Ernst’s full written statement on the bill.

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