Farmers, SNAP Recipients Applaud Senate Farm Bill

The bill is bipartisan

FARGO, N.D. — The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Farm Bill on Wednesday.

In addition to farmers, the measure will have a huge impact on those who are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or SNAP, program.

More than 54,000 people in North Dakota rely on SNAP program benefits, including Ricky Belgarde’s family.

“We’ve use it our whole lives. Being a low–income family below poverty, it comes in really, really handy. Without it, it would be very difficult especially when I don’t have enough money after paying bills,” Belgarde said.

SNAP provides food to millions of other low–income families, those with disabilities and the elderly.

But a Farm Bill the House proposed would force all of those who rely on the program to get a job or go to school for at least 20 hours a week, or risk losing their benefits for a year.

That’s something Belgarde says he can’t afford, especially after being diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy.

“It pretty much took me out of a job. I was working in McDonald’s at the time, went to sit down, woke up in a coma 20-some days later,” Belgarde said.

However, under the Senate Ag Committee’s bill, SNAP recipients would not have to do so. Many farmers are applauding North Dakota Senators Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven who are both on the committee.

“I think we have a commitment to make sure people in this country have food and family farmers, that’s what we do,” said Mark Watne, North Dakota Farmer’s Union president. “I’m really championing Heitkamp and Hoeven because of this, working together and trying to get something that we can actually make do some good for both people that are hungry and for farmers.”

The bill will help farmers the same way it always has.

“We’ll have a backstop. We’ll have crop insurance, it will have programs that enable us to go to the bank and get our operating money and if we do have some really tough times, we have at least a baseline to fall back on,” Watne said.

Some say it’ll even help protect the Red River Valley’s sugar industry.

“(That is) really important. Lots of jobs, lots of economic opportunity because of the strength of sugar beets in Northwestern Minnesota and we fought hard to keep the Farm Bill and we’re going to fight hard to keep it there all the way through,” said democratic Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith.

Sen. Smith says the last step is to just get the bill passed through the Senate.

“This is good news for farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and North Dakota. We need a farm bill. This bill is a good, strong bill. I’m optimistic that it’ll come forward in the Senate in the coming weeks. I hope for that, I think we really need to get this done,” Sen. Smith said.

The Farm Bill is bipartisan.

Sen. Smith says as long as the House can work with the Senate, she’s confident they’ll also be able to get the bill passed through the House.

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