While the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held the first of its Hearings from the Heartland series in McCain Auditorium Thursday afternoon, local activists held a rally outside to advocate for federal nutritional programs.
About a dozen members of Indivisible Manhattan, the local branch of a national organization that advocates for opposition to President Donald Trump, held the rally in protest of the hearing on the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill. Indivisble Manhattan co-coordinator Christopher Renner said it could potentially eliminate nutritional programs for the elderly or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“Trump’s advisers have already announced these programs are going to be cut because they take up a lot of the financing in the Farm Bill,” Renner said. “The millions they give to large ranchers out in western Kansas, that’s apparently OK, but funds for giving food to poor people should be cut? We’re here because we need to stop hunger and to speak out for what is just and right.”
“Today, the only people inside there are the ‘expert witnesses,’ so they’re the people invited from the industry to speak out to maintain the status quo of the Farm Bill,” Renner said. “You have people from Cargill and people from Archer Daniels Midland, those kind of people are the people inside. Large ranchers from western Kansas, the Kansas Farm Bureau, which of course supports Sam Brownback and his policies, all people who will be glad to take food from hungry children.”
Naomi Wood, professor of English, said rallies like the one Thursday may not accomplish immediate change, but they work as a foundation to build on.
“I think rallies are good for organizing and making it possible for like-minded people to connect and maybe plan other sorts of activities,” Wood said. “Unfortunately, there’s not a huge amount of people here today, but in large enough numbers, I think it does get politicians’ notice.”
Although people at the rally were mostly older protesters, some students who walked by thanked the protesters for their work, and people who drove by honked and waved in support of the rally.
“My generation, the boomers, have caused this, and I think younger people are doing the best they can to survive,” said Deborah Plummer, who runs the Occupy MHK Facebook blog. “That’s what they’re doing, they’re working and going to school and trying to survive.”
Renner said Kansans have been frustrated with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Dodge City, due to his unwillingness to be confronted by angry voters. Since the beginning of the February congressional recess, Roberts has not held any public town hall meetings.
According to a press release, the Indivisible Organization is a nationwide movement, “based on the practical application of ‘Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,’ a booklet that has been downloaded over a million times.” The booklet gives instructions for conducting and growing grassroots advocacy at congressional offices across the nation.