Melissa Harris Perry
updated 6/22/2013 2:16:18 PM ET 2013-06-22T18:16:18

The head of the National Black Farmers Association joined Melissa Harris-Perry to share why he thinks Republican brinksmanship over the farm bill will hurt everyone.

It’s not just poor children that seem destined to suffer thanks to House Republican efforts to make this year’s farm bill so toxic that it couldn’t pass. Small farmers already struggle to compete with corporate factory farms, and what assistance they do receive from the federal government pales in comparison to what the biggest farms receive.

After heated debate and multiple amendments that would have made it all but impossible for people to qualify for what is commonly known as food stamps—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—and cuts that would have led to millions of United States residents, many of them children, losing their benefits, the farm bill was defeated in the House.

When John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, spoke to Melissa Harris-Perry, he expressed his frustration at legislators that appear too concerned with, as fellow show guest Irin Carmon put it, appearing “ideologically pure” make smart policy. Boyd described the struggle to decide what he could buy when going to sow his crops because he had so little money left after paying his crop insurance, something large farms don’t have to do until after they’ve planted.

Watch him tell Melissa Harris-Perry what he thinks Congress needs to do to help both small farmers and people in need of food assistance above.

Video: Farm bill could have had striking effects on small farms

  1. Closed captioning of: Farm bill could have had striking effects on small farms

    >>> it's not just superheroes that hide their true identities. many villains come in disguise too. take a look at these republicans offering what may say sound like innocuous amendments to the farm bill .

    >> the only way to get out of s.n.a.p. reform is to have the s.n.a.p. beneficiaries, which are in every single congressional district , as opposed to farmers, which are in not every single congressional district , to bring them to the table. to have some skin in the game to make sure that their community communicated to their members of congress that they want them to get something done.

    >> you see, that sounds clark kent , sort of mild enough. but here's how congressman mike conway 's amendment would really work. it would automatically cut food stamps by 10% if congress plans to reauthorize the farm bill . it would literally decimate the program. it was meant to be a sort of doomsday advice to encourage congress to act. but if the sequester taught us anything, it says doomsday devices can become a smothering reality. and then there was this guy, explaining his position.

    >> we all agree that we don't want children to go hungry. what this amendment is about is making sure that addicts and criminals are not taking what is not theirs, taking food from the mouths of these children. taking food from those who are in need.

    >> so, congressman richard hudson wants you to think that he's all about saving the children. his actual plan is to drug test s.n.a.p. beneficiaries, a common sense move, he says, right. or a way to humiliate people and keep them from applying to the program. and oh, by the way, this tact has already proven a failure. florida found that drug testing welfare recipients cost the state more money than it saved. money that could have been spent directly on benefits. now, here's majority leader eric cantor , praising yet another farm bill amendment.

    >> this amendment will help reduce federal expenditures, provide assistance to the states, and most importantly, it will help struggling families who find themselves relying on public assistance to get back on their feet.

    >> and the amendment that cantor touted, it wouldn't help struggling families to get on their feet. it would force them to find jobs that may not even exist or lose benefits, by allowing states to require beneficiaries to work. now, as we know, the house rejected the farm bill this week. they may try again. and if they do, the bill could come with even more conservative amendments. joining us from richmond, virginia, is john void, president of the national black farmers association, who has been closely involved in educating the congress about the farm bill and its effect on food stamp recipients as well as farm smallers. nice to have you, john.

    >> thank you for having me, melissa.

    >> you've been briefing members of congress about its effects. what has been your primary message to them?

    >> the message is the that if they're going to have federal crop insurance reform, that it also needs to include small farmers, black farmers, hispanic farmers, indian farmers. and here congress wants to cut the food stamp program , s.n.a.p., school lunch program . this is something that should be looked at very, very closely. the farm bill could be easily split up. we don't have to have the food stamp program as a part of the farm bill . it's a way to actually collude that.

    >> let me ask you about that. if we were to delink them. if we were to take s.n.a.p. out of the farm bill , doesn't that make it easier to kill s.n.a.p. isn't it part of the reason why we just saved whatever is left to this program is because it is tied the to the price of milk.

    >> what they do is, the farmers always service large-scale white producers that produce million-dollar farm operations. and it very seldom has helped small-scale farmers. and that has been my message on capitol hill over and over again. the farm bill must include help for small farmers. the top 10% and direct payments received over $1 million per farmer. and i'm saying that some of those dollars could trickle down to actual farmers that need the help. here we are again, servicing the large scale farmers, the milk producers, the sugar recipients. all those things are going to remain in the farm bill . and here they are saying that they're moving that to the federal crop insurance program.

    >> john, let me bring in mark alexander here for a moment. this point about minority farmers and about small family farmers. i think of pickford as one of the great accomplishments of the obama administration in its first term. mark, tell me, how do we make sure that a for a bill keeps people like john boyd , who farms in southern virginia , on our radar, not just these large-scale massive producers.

    >> the thing we have to do, when we talk about farming, we have to think about everybody. but this bill is making sure everyone is getting something. you know, the corporate giants are getting at out of this. so we can't sort of say, well, they're going to get, and those who are sitting there working their fingers to the bone every single day aren't going to get it. this isn't just about corporate welfare , this is about making sure that our farmers are taken care of. the people who are out there every day, who are watching that weather forecast , not because they want to know whether to bring an umbrella, because that's their livelihood. we have to look out how people every day take care of our needs, the food we have right here on this table here. we need to look out for the farmers who are really working themselves. and that's building coalitions. and that's a tough job.

    >> john, let me ask you about this. because your a farmer, yet you have a particular irritation with representative steve king . explain to me why.

    >> well, what happened, as i spoke earlier about the federal crop insurance program. small-scale farmers have to pay their premium before their crop is sold. large-scale farmers get subsidized and they don't even have to pay their insurance until after they sell their crop. so i'm caught between every year, whether i'm going to buy lime, seed, fertilizer, $3.50 for diesel fuel or pay a huge up-front premium for federal crop insurance program. and i've been advocating members of congress to change that rule so the small-scale farmers can actually stay on the farmer and plant their crop and have federal crop insurance , like large-scale producers. there's literally nothing in the program for minority farmers to receive outreach. outreach will give the farmers changes and those federal rams, so they can sign up on time and these are things that members of congress pretty much just want to wipe away with. they want to do away with $20 billion to food stamp programs. these are things we need to be talking about and these are things that members of congress need to be held accountable, such as steve king , who advocates these kinds of initiatives.

    >> john boyd , thank you so much. i think you brought us right to where we'll stop for now, but come right back on exactly that issue. it's an issue about accountability. thank you so much to john boyd in virginia for reminding us that, yes, this is about s.n.a.p., but this is also about farmers.

    >>> up next, house speaker john boehner is clinging to his job as gru to his


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