July 12, 2023

Orange County Leaders Discuss How Farm Bill Can Boost Agriculture, Food Programs

U.S. House Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) met with local leaders July 6 to discuss the upcoming Farm Reauthorization bill where parties sounded off on what they wish to see in the updated legislation, which determines how the nation’s agriculture and food programs are run and funded.

The legislation, which has been around since the 1930s to regulate and fund farming and agricultural practices and programs across the country, also decides where key funding for such will be allocated including via food stamps—now known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)—farming subsidies, and other agricultural and food-related programs.

The Farm Bill, as it is known, is up for reauthorization this year, as is done every five years per federal policy.

Representatives from Correa’s office said the date for a vote on the bill’s reauthorization is still unknown, and that lawmakers may release an initial draft of the bill by the end of this year.

As the top agricultural producer in the U.S., California plays a major role in the bill’s formulation and subsequent funding and allocations. As such, many Orange County-based nonprofits and local leaders gave their two cents during Correa’s roundtable discussion regarding what they would like to see in the updated legislation.

Many recommendations pushed for increased funding and fresh produce for local food pantries, as well as easier access to SNAP and other social welfare programs due to the heightened cost of living in the area amid rising inflation.

One Anaheim school administrator recalled numerous low-income students in his district, many of whom, he said, lacked access to nutritious food even after getting food from local pantries because donations are mainly processed and canned foods. The outcomes, he said, were devastating.

“I had one high school student who was so malnourished he was missing almost all his front teeth,” the administrator said during the roundtable. “His family was very low income and he was surviving on canned and processed food. What he needed was access to basic nutrients and produce.”

Senior citizens who participated in the roundtable also shared concerns about the cost of living in Orange County.

“It’s incredibly expensive to live here as a senior resident. Even with my savings and social security, food is so expensive,” Anaheim resident Janice Anderson said during the discussion.

Ms. Anderson credited Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, one of the multiple food banks which receives funding from the bill, for assisting her with groceries when her social security wasn’t enough to cover living expenses.

“If I wasn’t so [prideful] I would cry because I’m so grateful. If it wasn’t for Second Harvest, my life would be much harder than it is today. And so I thank you, truly,” she said.

Last year, Second Harvest reported donating over 32 million pounds of food to over 330,000 county residents in need like Ms. Anderson, thanks, in part, to allocations from the bill.

Source: The Epoch Times, Orange County