Farm Bill 2012 – House Hearing on Nutrition and Specialty Crops

Apples in basket

On Tuesday, the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture held a hearing to discuss the section of the 2012 Farm Bill dealing with nutrition programs and specialty crop programs.

Representative Jean Schmidt (Ohio) opened the hearing with the observation that nutrition and specialty crop programs are closely related – specialty crops (vegetables, fruits, and nuts) provide a great deal of the nutrition in the American diet. The committee was instructed to find $33 billion that could be cut from programs. Rep. Schmidt pointed out that all the programs discussed at the hearing were important and necessary and the levels of funding would require creative solutions in order to continue their effectiveness.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine) talked about the importance of the nutrition programs. SNAP (food stamps) is the largest program in the Farm Bill. The economy is picking up and job numbers increase every month, but there are still a large number of households who don’t have enough income to feed all the members.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the average monthly SNAP benefit per household was $287 in 2010, or $4.30 per person per day. Incredibly, that small amount boosts household income by an average of 39%.

Testimony from farmers and representatives from farmers’ groups indicate that the programs that bring the consumer and farmer together seem most effective. For example, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) gets fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers to schools. Kids get better nutrition and farmers have a steady and large market. More encouragement for programs of this kind – farm to school programs and farmers’ market programs – was requested by most of those testifying.

Also emphasized was the ability of the Specialty Crops programs to focus on specific problems of small areas. The pests and diseases affecting citrus in the southern states will not be the same problems faced by tree nut farmers in the Pacific northwest. The Specialty Crops programs have the flexibility and expertise to solve these problems.

Transcriptions of all the testimonies are available online.

A video of the panel hearing is also online. It’s roughly three hours long.

Today at 10 a.m., the House will hold another hearing on credit programs in the Farm Bill.

Apples in basket photo via Shutterstock

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