Yamhill Valley Grown, Your Guide To Local Food - Page 28

SNAP Cuts, Unintended Consequences for Farmers’ Markets November 1st of 2013 a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) expired. The total cut to the program is estimated to be at $5 billion in fiscal year 2014. Congress allowing the expiration of the boost has unintended consequences for small farmers across the country and here in Oregon, we will not be immune to many of the problems. Over the past decade there has been a 490% increase in SNAP sales at farmers’ markets. In 2009 there were less than 1,000 markets authorized for SNAP. In 2011 this number pushed past the 3,000 mark. In Oregon, from 2011 to 2012 SNAP redemptions increased by 21%. Not only are the more places to spend SNAP benefits on locally produced agriculture, but people are doing this with increasing frequency. On The decrease in funds will have a major impact on those already receiving benefits and on those looking to enter the program. While citizens have shown an increasing commitment to buying locally, the cut represents a new threat to this movement. In Oregon, there will be 84 millions dollars less to be spent on food, according to state estimates. In 2012 Oregon SNAP recipients Farm store Photo Credit: Charles Hillestad spent over 700,000 dollars of their benefits at farmers’ markets. Local charities are already starting to gear up for the expected rush to food banks and soup kitchens. It is known that the benefits don’t last all month long and the cuts only exacerbate this reality. SNAP recipients will have fewer benefits and will be forced to reevaluate how these are spent. An 84 million dollar shortfall will result in decreased SNAP sales at farmers markets. This will impact local farmers, purchasers, and the food system in general. The federal government should pass legislation to increase the benefits of SNAP recipients or subsidize purchases at farmers’ markets. Not only will this benefit SNAP recipients, but will help cover losses that will be felt by farmers if these cuts hold. The amount of benefits used at farmers’ markets by Oregon citizens is very small, at less than 1% of total benefit usage. However, it is important that all people have access to this type of food and local growers to be able to access this demographic. Additionally, local farmers may lose thousands of dollars in revenues. These cuts have unintended consequences that will effect citizens, farmers, and the local food movement. 28 ~Jake Baker