Sen. Blanche Lincoln can’t seem to catch a break. The Democrat from Arkansas has been a leader in the fight against hunger almost from the time she went to Congress in 1992.
But Lincoln is being pilloried by environmental groups because of her steering of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to a unanimous vote by the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 24. The bill re-authorizes child nutrition programs.
The groups — the Environmental Working Group among others — issued a press release criticizing Lincoln’s bill. They claim it would pull funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and other conservation efforts.
“Sen. Lincoln’s nutrition plan pits kids against Clean water — needlessly,” the headline read on the Environmental Working Group’s press release, which also contained a subhead: “Proposal goes only halfway toward Obama administration goal while shielding bloated farm subsidies.”
As an article by Farm Press Editor David Bennett on these pages explained, the press releases contain a grain of truth. The article noted previous farm bills authorized certain levels of funding for EQIP, but those levels have never been spent in either the current or previous administrations. (See http://deltafarmpress.com/legislative/eqip-funds-threatened-0322/index.html)
The Environmental Working Group, whose members think U.S. agriculture should operate in a vacuum, oblivious to the huge subsidies provided to farmers in almost every other country, chided Lincoln for not taking the funding from farm payments and crop insurance subsidies. (EWG’s Web site has carried lists of farm program payment recipients for years.)
In a press release that followed the unanimous vote in the Senate Agriculture Committee, Lincoln noted the bill, which is “fully paid for,” provides about $4.5 billion in new funding for federal child-nutrition programs over the next 10 years.
She and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, said increased funding for the National School Lunch Program, the Women, Infants and Children Program and others will make a difference.
It’s difficult to tell whether the Environmental Working Group’s criticism is an isolated response or part of a coordinated effort to damage the Arkansas senator’s re-election bid. Attack ads that appear to support primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, have appeared on liberal-leaning Web sites. The ads claim to be part of an effort to “reform the Democratic Party from the Grassroots up,” but feature Halter’s photo.
The latter seem to be aimed at Lincoln’s lack of support for the health care reform legislation, an issue which is clearly causing her problems in Arkansas. Many attending Lincoln’s meeting at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis, Tenn., were upset with her vote for the Senate health care bill.
If both sides are mad, she must be doing something right.