New farm bill paves way for increased nutrition programs and farm subsidies

Monday, February 3, 2014

After a two-year delay to present a new farm bill, the wait came to an end Wednesday, Jan. 29, when the House of Representatives passed the legislation by a bipartisan vote of 251 to 166.

"I am elated over the passage of the bill in the House for reasons far beyond the farm bill," Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri's 5th District said. "There are still parts of the bill I would like to have changed if I could, but it's the best we could have done."

The 1,000 page bill is set to cost over 900 billion dollars over the next 10 years. But, it's also designed to lower the deficit.

"The bill's designed to also be a deficit lowering act of over six billion dollars over the next 10 years," Cleaver said.

He said the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- SNAP -- was cut a little below what he would have liked to see, but it's still there and it is an important program.

"Food stamps help low income families and farmers. If you forget where the food came from, you hurt farmers," Cleaver said. "When you build SNAP, it contributes to the economy. It goes way beyond helping a few, it helps everyone."

Additionally, they were able to get funding for food programs for schools in Saline, Lafayette and Clay Counties for low-income students, he said. They are trying to establish pilot programs for the counties and he has spoken with his staff to get those started.

They are also trying to establish a program for seniors, like the Senior's Farmers Market where they can purchase grain, vegetables and fruits at reduced cost, he said.

According to information received from Cleaver's office, both urban and rural schools have high student participation in USDAs school breakfast and lunch programs.

Here are some statistics about the program:

-- 16 percent of families were food insecure from 2009-2011.

-- One in five children in Missouri and Kansas do not have dependable access to nutritious food.

-- About half the students in Missouri were eligible for the Free or Reduced Lunch Program in 2012.

-- In July 2013, more than 145,000 residents of Clay, Jackson and Platte Counties in Missouri's 5th District received SNAP support.

-- Saline County reports 15 percent of households receive SNAP benefits, while Jackson County reports 12.8 percent of households received benefits.

-- In some of the rural schools in Missouri's 5th District, as many as 70-80 percent of students are enrolled in the school lunch program.

He also said there is an employment and training program within SNAP, which also helps people.

The direct payment subsidy was cut from the new bill. The cost for this program was about five billion dollars a year. This would ensure farmers who actually farm would receive these payments and only when they are affected by a drought or other disaster, according to lawmakers.

The crop insurance program was not cut from the bill and appears it will see increased funding.

Not everyone was for this, but the bill did gain support from various groups. Some of these groups included the American Farm Bureau Federation, Missouri Farm Bureau, American Soybean Association, United States Cattlemen's Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the National Association of Conservation Districts.

Cleaver said the passage of the bill would have no impact on Missouri taxpayers.

"By most any standard this is a good deal for taxpayers," he said.

Contact Kelly Melies at kmelies@marshallnews.com