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The issue of Agriculture is important to our district and to my work in Congress.
In the center of America’s Heartland, Missouri is a proud and longstanding agricultural state. With over 100,000 farms, agriculture brings over $33 billion to Missouri’s economy. How we support agricultural education and research and manage and preserve our agricultural lands today will affect the prosperity of our region in the coming years.
A new farm bill must be considered in 2013. Last year the Senate passed their version of a farm bill (S.3240 The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act), but the House of Representatives did not vote on its version (H.R. 6083 The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act). The 2008 Farm Bill expired on September 30, 2012. The fact that Congress has not come together and negotiated a final bill during such a critical time for the agriculture community is tragic. Our democracy was built on compromise, and our failure to come together to solve our nation's problems continues to put our shared future in jeopardy. The new Farm Bill must provide financial help for farmers when times are tough, continue agriculture’s longstanding interest in stewardship and conservation, and encourage and promote continued expanded trade. The farm bill ought to better assist beginning and young farmers and continue to support agricultural education and research.
According to the Census Bureau, 49.1 million Americans lived in poverty in 2010. This includes a staggering 13.6 million children and 6.2 million seniors. It is imperative that we not take nutrition benefits from Americans that are struggling to stay out of poverty and to feed themselves and their family. Nearly 46 million Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Programs like SNAP and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) not only provide money for local economy stimulation, but also keep American families nourished and out of poverty. Even with a strong SNAP program, 14.5% of American households experienced food insecurity in 2010. I support continued funding for these programs in the Farm Bill and in yearly appropriations.
Local & Regional Food Systems & Food Deserts
Local food systems have the potential to yield significant benefits to the economy and create jobs. According to a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a modest amount of public funding for between 100-500 farmers markets could create as many as 13,500 jobs over a five-year period. By providing further investment in local and regional food systems, we can bolster agriculture and put people back to work.
According to the Department of Agriculture, more than 13.5 million people live in a food desert; they live more than a mile from a grocery store or large supermarket in an urban area or more than 10 miles away in a rural area. With support for local and regional food systems and programs such as the Healthy Food Financing Initiative and the Let’s Move Campaign, we can support local farmers, provide healthy food choices for families, and help our children grow up healthier.