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Farm Bill Faces Final Vote

May 14, 2008

St. Paul, MN – The long-awaited national farm bill is scheduled for a final vote in Congress today. The $300 billion measure covers a lot of ground, but most of the spending goes for food and nutrition programs.

Colleen Moriarty with Hunger Solutions Minnesota says those programs are critical for meeting the daily food needs of millions of people.

"Whether it's commodity distribution to poor people, or whether it's in the terms of food support, or the old Food Stamp program, this really is the backbone of emergency assistance in our country."

She says the bill includes an increase in nutrition spending, which will bring millions of dollars into Minnesota to help stock food shelves.

Moriarty says the state relies on a partnership with the federal government to meet food needs, and those needs are growing.

"The demand in the state of Minnesota has increased by 60 percent since 2000. We are seeing unprecedented numbers of people go to food shelves in areas where you would not expect that, in some of the more historically wealthy communities. Most of these people who visit food shelves are working people, and these are your neighbors."

She says shelf use is being driven up by the rising cost of living and by lagging wages.

Steve Francisco with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits says the bill includes eight billion dollars in new spending for food and nutrition, funding needed to keep emergency hunger programs alive.

"This bill will stop the erosion of the value of food stamp benefits, which is a huge step forward. When we don't adjust the benefits for inflation, then every year the purchasing power of the food stamps is diminished. This bill moves us in the right direction."

He says the bill also increases benefit levels, and makes more households eligible for assistance.

President Bush has threatened a veto, calling the $300 billion overall price tag too high.

Jim Wishner/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MN