NC Budget and Tax Center

Farm Bill is a costly way to make more North Carolinians hungry

North Carolina already ranks 10th in the nation for its high level of hunger.  The proposed Farm Bill from the U.S. House, expected to be voted on later this week, is likely to drive that figure even higher.

Its combination of cuts to the amount and eligibility within the current program will hurt many North Carolinians, not just those receiving food assistance today.  The broader community that benefits when people can eat, lead productive lives, support their children’s healthy development will also suffer. It is also likely to disrupt the state’s vital food system that grows, processes, prepares and provides food through businesses across the state.

Less discussed in the bill is the failure to provide the funding to states necessary to implement new mandates. Without this federal funding, the costs will shift to North Carolina taxpayers or, alternately, North Carolina leaders will be responsible for keeping food off the table of more North Carolinians.

As has been noted in the discussion of work requirements in other programs, the costs can be significant.  From upgrading IT systems to aligning and staffing new work processes to delivering a new range of services, the implementation and ongoing operation of this federal mandate will cost states in a way that is not supported with the small amount proposed for states in the bill.  The implementation of work requirements for TANF in Tennessee cost the state $70 million, while the state of Kentucky estimates that it will cost $180 million to administer new work requirements in Medicaid.

These dollars also aren’t a good investment since work requirements haven’t demonstrated their effectiveness at moving people to work or economic security.  For example, work requirements in TANF have been connected to the exponential growth in deep poverty and been demonstrated to derail progress in finding work and maintaining household well-being.

If this bill passes, North Carolina could be positioned to make investments in wasteful bureaucracies at a moment when its ability to meet much-needed investments in classrooms, health care and rural development is limited. Not only that, but state lawmakers seek to implement a new regional support model for delivering social services but can’t seem to fund it—thus making clearer that the prospects for additional unfunded federal mandates getting the resources they need to improve programming and outcomes is grim.

It’s time to abandon a costly way to make the health and well-being of more North Carolinians worse.

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