Despite record lows in our state’s unemployment rate, far too many hardworking families, children, seniors and people with disabilities in southeastern Wisconsin are having some pretty tough times. In fact, nearly one in 10 people living in the 1st Congressional District is at-risk of hunger. These are people we know, love and care for.

This is why the 2018 farm bill is so important. Not only does it set our nation’s agricultural policy; it also funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as FoodShare in Wisconsin), our nation’s signature anti-hunger program. In the 1st District, about 35,000 households with a median income of $22,000 receive a modest benefit every month through SNAP to help them buy groceries.

Right now, the future of SNAP is in jeopardy as Congress must reconcile two very different versions of the farm bill as it relates to our nation’s cornerstone hunger-relief program.

The House version would make broad cuts to SNAP and impose harsh time limits through a challenging work requirement, which would cut millions of low-income Americans and almost 100,000 Wisconsinites off SNAP.

These severe cuts to SNAP would significantly increase the demand at social service agencies and would increase the risk of hunger for our friends and neighbors. According to our state Legislative Fiscal Bureau, some of the changes would cut SNAP access for almost 75,000 Wisconsinites, including over 23,000 kids.

A good job is the best hunger-fighting tool, but expanded work requirements do not result in good jobs. These requirements would just make it harder for people to support themselves and their families while they look for work. The people we serve do not lack motivation; they lack stable, good-paying jobs with benefits.

On the other hand, the Senate-passed farm bill would improve SNAP by strengthening support for workers and employers, maintain SNAP’s already strong work requirements and make common-sense improvements to strengthen program integrity and reduce fraud. These bipartisan provisions would improve SNAP without sacrificing access for children, families, veterans, seniors and people with disabilities.

To us, the choice is clear. The Senate version presents a bipartisan, forward-looking farm bill that keeps SNAP strong, effective and accessible. It ensures that all families facing hunger have the nutrition they need to work, learn and live healthier lives, and it should be the framework for the final farm bill that Congress sends to the president.

As House Speaker Paul Ryan prepares to work with the farm bill conferees on the important upcoming negotiations, we urge him to fight for the children and families in Wisconsin by ensuring the Senate’s bipartisan provisions that preserve access to SNAP and make sensible changes to support workers and employers are included in the final bill.

Mary Fanning-Penny is president and CEO of United Way Blackhawk Region. The Rev. Tanya Sadagopan is pastor at Janesville UCC, First Congregational Church.

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