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Proposed 2013 Farm Bill would Hit Small Farmers, Poor Hardest

PHOTO: Michigan cherries are a popular favorite at Michigan farmer's markets. Some say the current version of the Farm Bill could hurt the ability of the poor to buy healthy fruits and vegetables. Photo credit: Rob South
PHOTO: Michigan cherries are a popular favorite at Michigan farmer's markets. Some say the current version of the Farm Bill could hurt the ability of the poor to buy healthy fruits and vegetables. Photo credit: Rob South
July 26, 2013

LANSING, Mich. – Farmers across the country are waiting for Washington to pass the 2013 Farm Bill.

The bill's approval has been contentious, with lawmakers splitting along partisan lines.

A version of the bill – passed by the House earlier this month – stripped out support for popular programs, including SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is more popularly called food stamps.

Katie Brandt is the co-owner of Groundswell Community Farms in Zeeland. She says SNAP purchases can make up 10 percent of her business at local farmers markets. And, receiving food stamps also helped her start her own business.

"I had no summer income for the first two seasons,” she says, “and really relied upon that in starting a business that now has seven full-time equivalent employees. It just wouldn't happen without that."

Brandt has also received Farm Bill grants that let her build out and improve the infrastructure on her farm. The 2013 Farm Bill is going back into committees for further discussion, with doubts increasing that the bill will be passed before the summer recess in August.

House Republicans are working on a separate food stamp bill.

Brant is now waiting for word of another Farm Bill grant she's applied for that would help her research and write a book of profiles of small farmers like herself, with stories of how they got started.

"I think it would be a great resource for farmers starting out to see that there's many different ways to approach starting a farm business," she says.


Rob South, Public News Service - MI