EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSNo Farm Bill, Cuts Could Lead To Food Program Woes in WV
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kera Mashek
Videographer: Shelby Spradling
Web Producer: Kera Mashek
Reported: Sep. 25, 2013 10:52 PM EDT
Updated: Sep. 25, 2013 11:24 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
The budget battle continues in Washington, D.C., with Congress making little progress to avoid a possible government shutdown when the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
But that's also the deadline for another important piece of legislation: The farm bill. As you can guess by the name, the farm bill is important to farmers across the country.
But what you might not realize, about 80 percent of the money in the bill actually goes to food programs, namely the supplemental nutrition assistance program, also called food stamps.
In West Virginia, 19 percent of people rely on that program to get food, and without a farm bill, or one that gets passed with big budget cuts, it won't be just food stamp families that suffer.
Mountain Mission in Charleston has shelves full of food, serving some 600 families in the Kanawha Valley each month. But at the end of each month, the pantry's shelves quickly become empty as people on the supplemental nutrition assistance program, or "SNAP", run out of benefits.
"The truth is, people go hungry every day, and it's already tough--we already struggle to meet these demands," Mountain Mission executive director John Roberts said.
And meeting the demands will only get harder if Congress does not pass a new farm bill to fund SNAP, or if it dramatically cuts money to the program. That's because without food stamps, people will rely on food pantries like Mountain Mission even more.
"If this happens, I would hate to even estimate, but it (demand) could possibly double, and there's no way a food pantry like ourselves could handle that without the support of the public," Roberts said.
And it's a real concern since the House version of the farm bill cuts $4 billion from food stamps each of the next 10 years.
Plus, it's not just food assistance programs that could be impacted. You could see changes at the grocery store, too.
The reason? Part of the farm bill also regulates prices of certain commodities, like milk. Without that law in place, milk prices could go sky-high. That only leaves everyone hoping Congress gets to work this weekend, solving both the budget and farm bill dilemmas.
The current farm bill is an extension of the 2008 law, which was done to avoid a similar crisis last year. House leaders insist they're committed to passing a new comprehensive five-year farm bill, and don't want to put through another extension.
But some agriculture experts say it's likely if we get to Sept. 30 without a new farm bill, lawmakers will likely pass at least a short-term deal to avoid a lapse in benefits and those big price hikes in groceries.
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