Proposed Farm Bill May Affect Low Income Residents The Most
GAINESVILLE - Negotiations over a major piece of legislation in Washington are being watched by people in at least one farmers market in North Central Florida. Members of congress are finishing a new farm bill and are debating what to put in, and what to take out. While experts say it's a bill that affects everyone however low income residents may be affected the most.
The Farm Bill affects millions of agricultural jobs here in the United States. But that's not the only type of people it affects. Most of the measures' costs are tied to food stamps that help low income families.
John Harrell, with the Department of Children & Families said, "Currently in Alachua county about 40 thousand people are being helped by food stamps... Those food stamps are helping them provide for basic needs to families-- specifically food."
While the numbers have not been officially released there is speculation that the new bill will cut food stamp funding by 9 billion dollars.
Marty Mesh the Executive Director at Florida Organic Growers works closely with low income people in Gainesville. They've started a program that encourages the use of snap benefits at farmers market. "If a person takes their snap card to a farmers market and wants to take 10 dollars, 15 dollars of benefits then we double that and make it 30 dollars in benefits," Mesh said.
The program hopes to help those "at risk" to eat healthier despite their income and also help the local farming economy at the same time.
Janell Hendren the National Affair Coordinator at the Florida Farm Bureau said, "Also it was shown in a recent USDA study that low income SNAP participants have a slightly better diet on certain issues like low saturated fat and low sodium diets than low income non-SNAP participants."
Hendren also said that about 80 percent of the farm bill's spending goes to food stamps... A number high enough to speed up the process she believes. "Those that do not understand the broad range of effects of this bill and the benefits that it gives-- not just to the farmers but to the average consumer... This is a consumer protection bill as much as it is about agricultural policy. This is about the stability of the food supply in America," Hendren added.
While it has taken congress two years to pass the bill, for Hendren that is way too long. It is believed that a compromise for a new bill will be reached by the end of this month or early next month.
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