Not Just a Farm Bill, a Food Bill

March 11, 2008

Courtesy of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service

Courtesy of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service

WASHINGTON (Mar. 11, 2008)—Members of the Texas Congressional delegation could start receiving a lot of farm bill letters from people in the Houston area who depend on local hunger relief groups.

That’s because the Houston Food Bank has issued a “Call to Action” to get the pending farm bill passed soon. A template Congressional letter provided by the group sums up the sentiment of many people with a stake in the new bill’s nutrition proposals.

“Enacting a new Farm Bill will provide much needed food for those most in need throughout the nation,” reads the form letter. “Instead of wondering where the next meal will come from, or how the shelves can be replenished, this provides a long term, stable source of help to people whose needs are significant.”

The Houston Food Bank isn’t alone. The Food Bank for New York City has been urging New Yorkers since February to call lawmakers and ask that they “take action on this essential legislation right away now that you have returned from recess.”

In fact, food banks in many states and large cities have made passing the new farm bill-which includes billion in funding increases for nutrition programs-a top priority.

The farm bill passed by the House of Representatives included $4.2 billion in new nutrition spending over five years and $11.5 billion in additional funding over 10 years. And the Senate version included more than $5 billion in add-ons for five years.

No wonder the nation’s biggest charitable hunger relief organization, America’s Second Harvest, has given the farm bill the top slot in its online Hunger Action Center.

The group, which operates in all 50 states and feeds 25 million people annually, writes on its site, “It is critical to maintain the incredible momentum generated in recent months in support of enactment of a strong nutrition title in the Farm Bill.”

Despite the increased activity by hunger-relief advocates, most policy insiders doubt that there’s sufficient time to sign a new farm bill into law before current farm and nutrition programs expire on March 15.

Congress is expected to pass a temporary extension of current law through April 18 to give lawmakers additional time to finish work. And based on the building frustration with the bill’s delay, they can expect a lot more letters and calls from the nutrition community.