I got back from our trip to D.C. last night. The conference ran through Monday and then we had a lobby day on Tuesday. I enjoyed the conference, it was great to see people I knew and also to meet new people and find out what they are doing in their areas in terms of hunger and poverty work.
Lobby day was enjoyable too, for the most part. We were lobbying for broad reforms for the Farm Bill which is up for renewal this year. Basically, there are four goals that we would like to see happen with it: 1) Food Stamp . That is, expand food stamps, change the way the deductibles are done, and make it easier for people to actually get them when they are eligible. 2) Rural development- make funds available for rural development and assist low income people who are trying to start small businesses in rural areas. 3) Change the way subsidies and commodities are given. Right now it is mainly the big agribusinesses who receive money, not the small farmers who they were originally supposed to help. Also, the five big crops- wheat, corn, cotton, soybeans, and rice are the crops that receive all the money right now. That needs to be diversified. and 4) Help farmers in developing countries. Right now we're overproducing the big 5 crops and then dumping our excess on other counties which drives down the market prices and causes the farmers there not to be able to sell their own produce.
Okay, so that was it in a nutshell. We met with legislative assistants in our two Senators' offices and it went pretty good. Sen. Alexander's assistants seemed really receptive and told us that the Senator had already received a letter from a colleague about reforming food stamps and they were planning on encouraging him to do all this! We're not too sure what Sen. Corker's assistant thought. He's a new senator and is still kinda riding the fence on a lot of stuff. The assistant was hard to read.
We actually met with our representative, Rep. Duncan. For this meeting it was just me, Jeremy, and Duncan since no one else from our district was at the conference. What can I say about Duncan? Well, he's a first class jerk, that's for sure. If you don't agree with something fine, but there is no need to be rude and insulting. My favorite parts of the meeting where when he said it was obvious we both came from "liberal left wing backgrounds." (Umm, not really true, at all). Also, he said that he "knows more poor people" than we do. Umm, I'm a social worker. Everyone I know is poor!! Sure I'm young, but pretty much all the families in the study I'm working with are poor, as was everyone at the homeless shelter/walk-in center I interned at in Waco. What a jerk, assuming he knows all this about us. Also, when Jeremy was making a connection about how health care costs are going to go up in the future because of people's diets now- the rise of obesity and juvenile diabetes, etc - which is closely tied to food stamps because the average person on food stamps gets $1 a meal and fatty, non-nutritional foods are much cheaper than fruits and vegetables, Duncan said, "That is the dumbest idea i have ever heard in all my years in the congress." Actually though, studies have shown this to be true. We will see a rise in health care costs.
Seriously, how does this man keep getting re-elected? I'm definitely planning on volunteering for who ever runs against him in 2008.