by Jane Wiechel, SKM Board President

Lawmakers on the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture committees will draft a new federal farm bill to shape food, farm, conservation, and nutrition programs nationwide for the next five years.  The current bill expires in September 2023.

The farm bill is vital to the nearly 57,000 farms in Indiana, supporting the state’s food and agriculture economy to over $35 billion annually.  The farm bill aims to protect that investment by keeping Indiana farm families sustainable, including risk management and conservation, and maintaining these farms’ goods and services to all Americans.  As essential as those items are to the farm bill, they only equal about 20% of the overall legislation.  The other 80% is in the form of nutrition programs, mainly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Households, individuals, seniors, and people experiencing homelessness may all be eligible for SNAP benefits.  Working people who need help to stretch their income to purchase food may also be eligible for SNAP benefits.  The program provides benefits, in the form of reloadable debit cards, to families needing financial assistance.  The money can be used to purchase foods such as bread, cereal, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, snack foods, and even seeds that can be used to grow foods.

SNAP significantly impacts our families’ and communities’ economic well-being and health.  Each dollar in federally funded SNAP generates $1.79 in economic activity.  SNAP lifts people out of poverty.  Numerous studies demonstrate that household SNAP benefits affect the health and well-being of families and children.  There is strong evidence to show SNAP’s effectiveness in alleviating food insecurity.

This legislation should be titled the Farm and Food Bill because you can’t have one without the other.  Getting the message to Congress, which consists of 48% of members who have never been part of a farm bill process, will be of utmost importance.  We encourage you to pay attention to this bill, reach out to your member of Congress, and remind them of its significant role in providing food security for 11,893 SNAP recipients living in Muncie, most of whom are employed as benefits are based on income and not employment status.