Farm Bill Update: Hungry Americans Need a Farm Bill

With the April 18 deadline quickly approaching for the passage of the new Farm Bill, legislators have yet to come up with a solution to fixing the bill’s budget. If Congress cannot pass this revised Farm Bill, the White House could refuse to support another 30-day extension and insist on a two-year extension of the 2002 Farm Bill, which contains inadequate funding to meet today’s needs. The budgeting issue still remains as Congress struggles to find ways to revise the budget before the deadline hits.

The budgeting issue affects not only farmers but consumers as well. “Hungry Americans cannot wait any longer,” said Vicki Escarra, president and chief executive officer of America’s Second Harvest. With the increasing cost of food, hungry Americans are turning to food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries for help.

Another extension of the under-funded 2002 Farm Bill would be devastating to food banks, which are already facing increasing demand request for food assistance with minimal food supply on hand. Nearly 70 percent of the new Farm Bill deals with funding for federal nutrition programs that are now currently working under the 2002 budget. The new Farm Bill would bring relief to the food banks and low-income Americans through funding and improvements on federal food programs, including the Food Stamp Program. A portion of the proposed Farm Bill would increase funding for these federal nutrition programs.

"We are seeing absolutely tragic increases nationwide in the number of men, women and children in need of emergency food assistance, many for the first time ever,” said Escarra. “Meanwhile, more than 1.3 million more people are enrolled in food stamps compared to a year prior. Hungry Americans need a Farm Bill enacted now."

Food banks are relying on the passage of the new Farm Bill. Until then, they cannot develop their own operating budgets because they do not know what the impact of federal budget will be.

“Everybody should have the opportunity to eat and not worry where it is coming from,” said Dayatra Latin from a community food bank in California. “It’s the difference between whether or not we’re going to eat tonight. That’s how much that bill passing means to them.”

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