Support a Farm Bill for the good of all

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Guest Column

In our state constitution, Montanans declare that all political power is vested in and derived from the people. That all government of right is instituted solely for the good of the whole.

For the good of the whole. Our Montana values bring us together under this contract with one another that we stand up for each other; that we are working together for the greater good of every person in the Last Best Place.

About 120,000 Montanans, more than 10% of our whole, rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for basic food needs. More than 70% of Montana participants live in a household with children; 30% are older adults or are living with a disability, and 41% are in working families. These are our neighbors; people struggling with underemployment; our aging population.

Right now, the Senate and the House are coming together in committee to reconcile two very different Farm Bills. In the Senate, where we are grateful for the leadership of Senators Daines and Tester, the Senate bill protects SNAP, maintaining this vital social safety net for families who are struggling. This bipartisan effort was widely supported with a vote of 86 - 11. In the House version, a request for increased bureaucratic requirements that intend to add accountability to a program that already requires these conditions be met in order to receive benefits not only threatens the basic health of Montanans but increases the cost of the program to the taxpayer. The House version penalizes those that have already paid into the system and now need to benefit from it due to many factors some of which are a disability or medical condition, seniors on a fixed income, and costly or unavailable childcare. SNAP already has work requirements, time limits, and eligibility thresholds that keep many food insecure Montanans in need of emergency food assistance from food banks like ours.

Across the State, SNAP adds value to multiple sectors. Twenty of our community Farmers Markets accept EBT as a form of payment, with a growing number of those participating in the Double SNAP Dollars program. SNAP brings more money into local economies and directly into the hands of our local producers. Grocery stores, markets, and c-stores in our rural communities rely on the revenues that SNAP purchases bring to employ workers and stay open. For every $1.00 of SNAP spent, $1.74 circulates in the local economy, which is good for everyone. But above all else, SNAP ensures that Montanans have food on the table so our kids can get to school nourished and ready to learn. So that veterans live in food security after coming home. So that our older neighbors can age in their own homes with dignity.

For the good of the whole.

It matters to us when our neighbors struggle. We urge our elected officials in Washington to support a Farm Bill that keeps our social fabric intact. Stand up for the whole of Montana. Protect SNAP.

Aaron Brock is the executive director for the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center.

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