Farm Bill extension offers temporary relief for food assistance - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Farm Bill extension offers temporary relief for food assistance program

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The compromise to avoid the so-called Fiscal Cliff included an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill was a big topic this summer, especially after the Senate passed a version of the bill but its proposal was never approved by the House. Instead, the 2008 bill was extended through September which ultimately pushed back reform.

The Farm Bill isn't just a concern for farmers. About 80 percent of the bill funds the "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program," better known as SNAP or food stamps.

Even though SNAP has been extended under Sunday's vote to revive the 2008 Farm Bill, members of the House and Senate are still at odds to slash the food stamps program when it comes back up for a vote in September of 2013.

While some organizations are breathing a sigh of relief because they'll have another year of funding and support through the Farm Bill, they're cautious because they know it'll be re-evaluated in just a few months as legislators work out the details for a new Farm Bill for 2013.

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank is one of those organizations with cautious optimism; it understands the worst might be yet to come.

Barbara Prather is the Executive Director for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. She said 57 percent of their clients are on SNAP or food stamps.

"Because of the extension, people will still get to keep their food stamps which means hopefully our numbers will stay about the same and they won't go up," said Prather.

Prather said she's concerned if significant cuts were to be made in the 2013 Farm Bill, more people would struggle to provide food for their families.

"There's always a concern when it comes to cuts especially when the economy is as unstable as it is," she said.

Prather said their pantry helps 1,200 families every month.

"In 2011, it was 500 families every month, so our numbers aren't going down," she said.

The same is true nationwide.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 46,609,075 people benefited from SNAP in fiscal year 2012. In 2011, that number was 44,708,726.

"Hopefully there won't be anymore cuts and we'll be able to continue serving people with the food that they need," said Prather.

According to Senator Charles Grassley's spokesperson, Beth Levine, everything from the 2008 Farm Bill except the "SURE" program was extended. 

Levine said the "SURE" program was used to fund livestock disaster assistance for farmers.

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