November 3, 2022

Add to the list of those expressing concerns about restrictive monetary policy: farmers. According to a Purdue University survey, agricultural “producers are concerned about the impact U.S. interest rate policy will have on their farms and the ag economy with over one-third of crop producers choosing it as the most important policy issue for their farming operation.”  That finding predated the latest interest rate hike that the Federal Reserve announced on November 2, as part of its anti-inflation policy.

Critics have charged interest rate increases in recent months threaten a recession, are at odds with the Federal Reserve’s mandate to promote maximum employment, and do not address the factors responsible for current inflation. For example, in an interview with The Hill, AFL-CIO Economist William Spriggs pointed to international supply costs and drought conditions as significant factors behind increased prices, and called the Fed’s moves “dangerous” and a diversion from appropriate policy.

In an October 25, letter to the Fed, Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH) had warned, “a family’s ‘pocketbook’ needs have little to do with interest rates, and potential job losses brought about by monetary over-tightening will only worsen these matters for the working class.” A letter from 10 senators to the Fed said, “we are deeply concerned that your interest rate hikes risk slowing the economy to a crawl while failing to slow rising prices that continue to harm families.”

As “Ag Insider” points out, interest rate policy “lies outside the jurisdiction of the Senate and House Agriculture committees.”  Nonetheless, there are steps the agriculture committees can take to bolster “safety net” programs such as crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which aim to help farmers and consumers weather tough conditions, due to an economic downturn or natural disaster.

As Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow said in October, “We need the safety net for farmers. We need the safety net for families … And in my book, we don’t do a farm bill unless we are strengthening both.” (See Chuck Abbott, “Food Stamp Fights Are Possible in 2023 Farm Bill, Says Stabenow,” Ag Insider, FERN, Oct. 12, 2022 –subscribe to view article)

SNAP’s ability to respond effectively to need is undercut by a three-month time limit on benefits for certain unemployed and underemployed adults. While temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, that SNAP time limit will return when the pandemic Public Health Emergency declaration ends.

It is long past time for Congress to pass H.R. 1753 to abolish SNAP time limits permanently. Join Food Research & Action Center in urging Congress to strengthen SNAP benefit adequacy and equitable access to bolster the safety net for hungry people and the economy.