On this week's Business Beat: 47 million Americans are enrolled in the SNAP program, or food stamps, including nearly 16 percent of Missourians. SNAP is the biggest spending item in the farm bill. And the program has a big bulls eye on it as Congress debates new legislation. As Grant Gerlock reports for Harvest Public Media, the economic considerations go beyond who receives SNAP benefits to how and where the money is spent.
April Segura is a regular at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, Neb. On a warm, May afternoon, the single, stay-at-home mother of three greeted friends and acquaintances while strolling past tables of lettuce and herbs. She hoped to find more asparagus for sale.
“I love asparagus season and it’s probably about to be over,” said Segura, holding two grocery bags with one arm and her one-year-old son, Jeriel, with the other.
Dozens of Ste. Genevieve County residents met last night (Tuesday) with the company applying to open up a sand mine in their neighborhood. Locals fired questions at Mark Rust, owner of Summit Proppants, for four hours about health concerns, traffic safety and property values.
In the small town of Staunton, Ill., the new $9 million water plant is a welcome addition. After all, when the 80-year-old facility it replaces seized up last year, the community’s 5,000 residents were without water for five days.
But for Staunton’s part-time mayor Craig Neuhaus, the plant represents more than water security. He expects the water system upgrade to help bring business to this town about 40 miles north of St. Louis.
The future of crop insurance and conservation programs for the Midwest is up for debate in Washington, as the farm bill reaches the floor of the Senate. The agriculture committees of both the Senate and the House passed new five-year bills last week and legislation is expected to make its way to the House floor soon.
The overarching theme this year is spending cuts—as with most federal programs. But how the two bodies trim down the farm bill differs. Nutrition programs will lose the most, with the House cutting more than the Senate.
With a new farm bill, farmers may have access to fewer dollars for conservation. For 27 years, the popular Conservation Reserve Program has transformed small parcels of land, contributing to cleaner water, more habitat for migrating birds and less soil erosion. But as Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer reports from Iowa, the program has been enrolling fewer acres in recent years and it’s not just budget cuts that could make it smaller still.
These tomato and salvia plants are growing in bio-renewable pots in a greenhouse at Iowa State University, which received a grant through the Farm Bill to study replacements for petroleum-based plastic pots.
Beyond subsidies and food stamps, what’s in the farm bill?
With the election over, lawmakers are now returning to Washington for the final weeks of the 112th Congress. Their schedule is packed, but House majority leader Eric Cantorhas said addressing the expired Farm Bill is on the agenda.
The farm bill expired at the end of September and lawmakers didn’t pass a new one, thanks largely to election-year politics. Despite the partisan bickering in Washington, though, many in farm country are working together to keep their concerns on the front burner.