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Washington’s Wait for Farm Bill Benefits Continues

May 15, 2008

Spokane, WA – Washington's representatives in the U.S. House were split 5 to 4, just barely in favor of the new U.S. Farm Bill, which is an indication of just how controversial it has been. The $288 billion legislation sets U.S. agriculture policy for the next five years.

After two years of Congressional debate, organizations that fight hunger still consider Wednesday's vote progress.
About two-thirds of Farm Bill spending is for food stamps and emergency programs, such as food banks and soup kitchens, and the new bill would mean another $9 million a year for Washington.

Linda Stone, Eastern Washington director of The Children's Alliance, says the increases in food stamp benefits are small, but they'll be tied to inflation in future years.

"We're going to be indexing several key deductions in the program, and also indexing and increasing the minimum monthly benefit, which is currently $10. It's been desperately in need of an increase for a long time."

Stone says the bill also makes more working families eligible for food stamps.

"It makes some small rule changes that are going to benefit families who are trying to save for retirement. These are families who have high childcare costs, and all of those things are going to basically make the food stamp program more in tune with the needs of working families in America today."

The Farm Bill battle is far from over, however. If it passes in the Senate, President Bush has already threatened a veto, because he doesn't feel Congress has done enough to trim its overall cost. Stone believes there are enough votes in both houses to override a veto. In Washington, 600,000 people use food stamps; half of them are children.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA