Locally grown produce and nutrition matter to the Storehouse. Further, they matter to the families who depend on us and our community. The 2023 Farm Bill, up for reauthorization in Congress, covers the agricultural aspects of our state. In addition, this omnibus bill covers other initiatives that alleviate hunger. That’s why the Farm Bill matters to the Storehouse and organizations fighting hunger. It’s also why all New Mexicans should take time to learn more about it and to weigh in with our congressional delegation about the Farm Bill.

Members of a family loading groceries into their car in front of the Storehouse food pantry.
The families who count on the Storehouse for groceries get fresh fruits and veggies, plus many count on SNAP benefits, both of which are affected by the Farm Bill.

The Farm Bill Governs TEFAP

The Farm Bill governs many different food programs for people experiencing hunger. For example, it determines how much funding will be offered through TEFAP, The Emergency Food Assistance Program. TEFAP distributes foods from farms to food banks. The Storehouse receives lots of different items from food producers through this program. All in all, TEFAP provides over 1 billion meals a year to people in need.

SNAP Benefits are Also in the Farm Bill

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, also known as SNAP, is also included in the congressional Farm Bill. Formerly known as food stamps, about 11% of US households have SNAP benefits to help them pay for groceries. In our state, the percentage is much higher. In fiscal year 2022, 518,800 New Mexicans received food benefits through SNAP. That’s about 25% of the state population. Furthermore, more than 67% of SNAP participants are families with children. (Source: Center on Budget Policies & Priorities) Over 151,000 of those SNAP recipients live in Bernalillo County, the primary service area of the Storehouse. In fact, it is a key safety net program for low-income households in our community.

Many families who rely on the Storehouse for food also need SNAP to make sure they have food all month long. Protecting and strengthening SNAP as the current version in the Senate asks, not cutting it as the House bill currently does, is one of the most efficient and effective solutions to ending hunger in America.

SNAP benefit increases help the economy, too. Every $1 of government spending increases the US Gross Domestic Product by up to $1.50.

Local Farms & Crops Would be Impacted

The Farm Bill originated in the 1930s. It was initially designed to jump start the depressed agricultural economy at that time. The bill continues to be a safety net for farmers in several ways. First, it provides farm loans to help start, improve, or expand American farms. The 2018 Farm Bill, which has been extended into 2024 while Congress debates the details, includes microloans and emergency loans. Second, disaster assistance is part of the bill. These programs help rehabilitate farm and ranchland damaged by natural disasters. Third, the bill covers conservation programs. These enable farmers to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitats. Fourth, the bill offers safety nets and price support programs that help farmers navigate pricing ups and downs.

These farm programs have a definite impact on hunger organizations, too. For example, farmers often donate excess or less attractive produce to food pantries. Without this kind of assistance, they may not be viable to support organizations in their communities like New Mexico farmers do for the Storehouse. Beyond our pantry, farms that are healthy from both a financial and ecological standpoint mean locally grown food is available in our state.

This video from Feeding America shows more about why the Farm Bill is important.

Ways the Public Can Support the Farm Bill

Congress is continuing to debate the details of the Farm Bill. It continues to get tabled and delayed. In fact, on November 16, 2023, President Biden signed into law H.R. 6363, the Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act of 2024, which extends the Farm Bill until September 2024. If you’d like to weigh in, you can help by reaching out to our New Mexico Congressional delegation to explain why it matters to you as a Storehouse client, donor, or volunteer. Hopefully, in the not too distant future they can pass this important legislation that is a help to farmers and hungry families alike.