Advocates say Farm Bill filibuster will hurt hungry Vermonters

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says a decision by several Republican senators to filibuster the 2007 Farm Bill will hurt a number of key programs in Vermont.

The legislation includes the continuation of dairy subsidies, new clean up money for Lake Champlain, and an expansion of the federal Food Stamp program.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Leahy says he’s surprised that a group of Republican senators is blocking consideration of the 2007 Farm Bill because he says the legislation has the strong support of many GOP senators who represent farm states.

Leahy says many of the senators who support the filibuster want to include items in the legislation that have nothing to do with agricultural policy.

Instead of adopting a new Farm Bill this fall, Leahy says it’s likely that Congress will pass a continuing resolution that maintains current spending levels for agricultural programs.

But that means that $75 million that’s been earmarked to help clean up Lake Champlain and a significant expansion of the Food Stamp program will be delayed until well into 2008 and perhaps 2009:

(Leahy) "The irony is that we’ve put together a broad coalition of republicans and Democrats on the Farm Bill going across the political spectrum eventually it will get passed but I think it is a mistake to be holding it up this way."

(Kinzel) Robert Dostis is the executive director of the Vermont Campaign To End Childhood Hunger. He says the filibuster will have a direct and very negative impact in Vermont:

(Dostis) "I’ll tell you, given the recent numbers of hunger in Vermont and the fact that the problem has gotten worse, we cannot delay implementation of this bill. It is just unconscionable given the recent statistics put out by the USDA that showed hunger in this country, in Vermont, is on the rise – particularly the worst form of hunger where children in households are actually going without food."

(Kinzel) Dostis says an expansion of the Food Stamp program is desperately needed now to help families cope with the rising cost of heating oil and gasoline:

(Dostis) "The more those costs go up and those expenses a family absolutely must pay for in order to get to work in order to heat their home so that leaves less and less money for food and increasingly no money for food and that’s why people are going to the emergency food shelves in their local communities for more support and why the Food Stamp program is so much more critical across the age spectrum."

(Kinzel) The Farm Bill also includes a continuation of a milk pricing subsidy program for dairy farmers.

Because this program is part of existing federal policy, Leahy says it will be extended until the new Farm Bill is eventually passed.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.


AP Photo/Toby Talbot

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