KENNEBUNK – The Agriculture Bill, which includes food stamps, has been in the paper a lot lately. Yet there is important information missing from every article. You see, food stamps are not like postage stamps, for there are alternatives to postage, such as email or text messaging. But there are no alternatives for food.

People who do not have enough food are not mentioned in the newspaper articles. They are the more than one in seven people, and one in five children, who live below the poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four.) These people are food insecure – they do not know if they will have enough food to put on the table.

And they are our neighbors. Maine ties with Connecticut for the second-highest food costs in the U.S.

Food stamp benefits are now provided on a debit-type card. Spending can be tracked, so we know that most families use up four weeks of benefits in three weeks.

Then they need to find other sources of food for the last week of the month.

The fraud rate for food stamps is now exceptionally low due to the debit cards and increased oversight.

More than 85 percent of food stamp recipients – children, the working poor, the disabled, the elderly – live below the poverty line. (All statistics are from 2010.)

For me, it is a matter of morality that people have enough food to eat.

Pragmatically, hungry people have more health problems, which increases health care costs. Hungry children lag behind in development and academic achievement, creating a deficit that lasts a lifetime and impacts everyone.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., believes cutting food stamp benefits is also “moral.”

He can’t understand why the number of people receiving food stamps has increased during the Great Recession. Does he think it’s dependency? Most food stamp recipients receive them for nine months. Food stamps are now the most efficient of any large government program, with a 3 percent inefficiency rate.

For my money, it would be better to look at fraud in the military and its contractors because it still hasn’t been made clear who lost $6.6 billion in cash sent by the planeload to Iraq in 2004 for reconstruction.

Last year at this time, it was concluded (see the Los Angeles Times) that no one knows what happened to that money, and we will never know.

The way I figure it, if the military budget is $642 billion, 6.6 billion is about a 10 percent fraud rate. At least with food stamps $1 in food stamps equals $1.73 to the U.S. economy, and even the 3 percent of erroneous spending is distributed across every American state.

The farm bill has been greatly improved in many other areas: Ethanol subsidies have been cut so we don’t have to pay three times (taxes, at the pump and increased food costs), and we seem to have stopped subsidizing agribusiness to NOT grow food.

However, $9 billion dollars is intended for crop insurance, which goes to rich landowners and insurance companies, encouraging them to plow up as much environmentally fragile land as they can.

The Senate version of the farm bill cuts $4.5 billion from food stamps, which will affect 500,000 people. Monthly benefits will decrease by $90 per month.

Fortunately for Maine, we have women of principle in Congress.

Rep. Chellie Pingree strongly supports healthy and nutritious food for hungry Americans.

Sen. Susan Collins strongly advocates for child nutrition programs.

Sen. Olympia Snowe also advocates for poor Mainers, fighting very valiantly for heating assistance.

Now the agriculture bill goes to the House. Most members of the House want drastic cuts to food stamps. Maine’s elected representatives could suggest that half of the $9 billion going for crop insurance go to hungry people.

Alternatively, the House Armed Services Committee wants to give our military $8 billion more than the military is actually requesting. Take half of that for food stamps. Working families, the disabled, the elderly and most of all the children who are half of all food stamp recipients, need food. Let’s get our priorities straight.