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Anti-Poverty Groups Oppose Farm Bill

By Mike Heeden on May 14, 2012
© Your News Now


Anti-poverty groups were in Rochester to criticize the pending farm bill before Congress, saying it will cut funding for safety net programs that help hungry Americans. Those cuts may make it difficult for many to eat healthy meals.

The groups say they are upset not only that the farm bill includes cuts to programs such as food stamps, but also because Congress has stalled on increasing the minimum wage.

Those speaking were from the New York State Hunger Action Network, Bread for the World, and the Northeast Organic Farm Association. They believe Congress supports a farm bill that does not benefit America.

The groups said the bill leads to a food system that subsidizes unhealthy food choices and leads to obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It also hurts food pantries that have a difficult time maintaining an adequate supply of nutritious food.

"I have never seen the cupboards so bare at food pantries and soup kitchens as they are now over the last 26 years,” said Mark Dunlea, NYS Hunger Action Network.

Much of that has to do with the high number of unemployed, and that many of the working poor do not make an affordable wage.

These groups are also lobbying for an increase in the minimum wage so that more people can afford organic foods, which tend to be healthier, but more expensive.

"If people who work got a decent wage that allowed them to buy high quality food, there would be less pressure on hospitals, there would be less long range chronic diseases, and buying organic food in an investment in health for your whole life and it cuts down society's costs in the long run,” said Liz Henderson, Northeast Organic Farm Association.

What concerns these groups the most are possible cuts to safety net programs; specifically food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

"These programs have worked. SNAP, WIC, the Women Infant Children supplemental program, they've worked when the need arises for folks to have these safety net programs. These safety net programs have the flexibility to respond to those needs," said John Gonzalez, Bread for the World.

The organizations complimented Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, for voting against the farm bill because it calls for cuts in food stamps. However, last week the committee voted 12-5 to send the bill to the Senate floor.

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