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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Editorial comment

Pass a fair farm bill

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Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Felix Gonzalez, a farmer in upstate Goshen, holds a freshly picked garlic sprig in his hand. Mr. Gonzalez sold his produce at a famer’s market in Kingsbridge last fall.

As Congress prepares to disperse for their winter recess beginning Dec. 13, the farm bill hangs in the balance.

The divisive issues currently preventing passage of the legislation are the amount to cut from both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and subsidies for farmers. 

For the sake of the 47 million vulnerable Americans who are struggling to feed themselves and their families, as well as to assist small farmers facing challenges to sustaining their livelihoods and supplying fresh produce to consumers, Congress must pass legislation that meets the needs of both groups.

The Senate reduced $4 billion from SNAP funding in a version of the farm bill they passed in June with support from Democrats and Republicans.

On the other hand, the House of Representatives cut $39 billion from SNAP in a separate passage of the bill earlier this year.

Last summer, the House rejected a version of the farm bill that decreased spending for SNAP by $20 million — Democrats said that number was too high — Republicans said it was too low.

Meanwhile, neither party is certain how much to cut from farm subsidies. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack said that if Congress fails to resolve their differences and pass the bill by the end of this year, his agency would use the original bill as a default measure.

Experts say this would send the cost of milk soaring — possibly doubling the current price — because it would force the government to pay higher prices and reduce the volume that dairies distribute to market.

Since the farm bill’s inception during the depression in the 1930s, the government has used the legislation as a means to stabilize and prevent interruptions to our nation’s food supply by overcoming structural inequities to ensure the country is producing enough agricultural products and guaranteeing those products reach markets throughout the country.

The bill funds all USDA programs, including those that feed and improve the diets of students in cities, suburbs, towns, villages and hamlets across the country.

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