KILLINGTON — U.S. Sen. Peter Welch told Vermont anti-hunger advocates Friday that he’s humbled by the work they’ve done during the pandemic and hopes to support it in the renewed Farm Bill, but said he fears the ramifications should the United States default on its debts or cede to proposed cuts in the House budget.
The Democrat’s remarks were delivered at the annual Hunger Action Conference put on by Vermont Foodbank at Killington Grand Hotel Resort.
“We’re in a dangerous moment right now,” Welch said. “There’s this thing with the debt ceiling. This has got to be especially strange for Vermonters. Vermonters, we don’t have discussions about paying a bill you owe. We pay what’s due on time, there’s no discussion. That’s not the case in Washington.”
According to national media reports, the United States could default on its debts by June 1 if Congress doesn’t authorize an increase to the debt limit that it has imposed.
Welch is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, which is working on a reauthorization of the Farm Bill. The bill contains funding for many nutrition programs that Welch says could be eliminated.
According to a statement released by Vermont Foodbank, following the conference, the Farm Bill, among other things, funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — known in Vermont as 3SquaresVT — the Emergency Food Assistance Program, and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
“The big threat is the default because that’s just going to destroy everything,” Welch told the Herald following his speech. Despite the fact there’s been a lot of bipartisan cooperation in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, and elsewhere in Congress, lately there seems to be a willingness from some in the House to let the country default on its debts if budget cuts aren’t agreed upon.
“There’s nothing that would hurt the economy more than defaulting on paying our bills for the first time in the history of our country,” Welch said.
The proposed cuts would remove the heart of the Farm Bill, he said, and make feeding those in need far more difficult. Now is not the time to eliminate food assistance programs.
Welch heaped praise upon those at the conference and those folks in similar fields, namely those whose jobs were deemed essential and who couldn’t stay home during the stay-at-home periods. He noted that they all had to face the same fears and anxieties caused by the pandemic while showing up on-site to work and help others who’d found themselves without an income and in need.
Welch said he’s ridden along with Meals on Wheels workers while they make deliveries and watched other food distribution efforts first-hand, and noted that there’s also a social component to what they do, as many folks in need of meals also are isolated.
Written by Keith Whitcomb, Times Argus