By Kasey Worst
Old Town Lansing Times staff writer
OLD TOWN LANSING – President Obama visited Michigan State University to sign a bill that impacts the Old Town community.
A president in Lansing
While at MSU on Feb. 7, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, which is more commonly known as the Farm Bill.
In his speech prior to signing the bill the president said it in some ways resembled a “Swiss-army knife.” This means the bill covers funding and regulations for multiple purposes, from the environment to agriculture to food stamps.
Farming and the environment
Andrew Sarpolis, an employee of the Sierra Club’s Old Town branch, said he heard a lot of “positive responses” from farmers about the bill’s the crop insurance program. These changes are supposed to make farmers more active in the insurance of their crops.
Another aspect of the Agricultural Act of 2014 is the funding of environmental programs.
Melissa Molenda, marketing manager for the Nature Conservancy, located in Old Town, said the Farm Bill is the largest single-funding source for conservation programs in the United States.
Molenda said she was proud of Senator Debbie Stabenow for passing this bill after years of work.
Rhea Van Atta, owner of the Old Town General Store, said the bill helps farmers, but also hurts other programs.
Van Atta said her store accepts an Electronic Benefits Transfer for some of her products. This is part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program which helps eligible people with low incomes gain access to healthy food.
However, the new farm bill reduced this program.
“I’m really in the middle on this issue,” Van Atta said.
Kim Gladstone, an external relations manager for the Greater Lansing Food Bank, said cuts to SNAP could impact families in Old Town and beyond.
“What the cut to SNAP means right now is that low-income households will lose an average of $90 of monthly benefits, and that equates to about 34 lost meals per month in the households,” Gladstone said.
According to Gladstone, 17.6 percent of Ingham County currently faces food insecurity.
“There are cuts that will impact our pantry because individuals that are in need of food will go to the pantry,” Gladstone said.
Gladstone also said that the seven-county food bank “will do whatever’s necessary to make sure that those that need it” have access to food.
A summary of the reforms caused by the Agriculture Act of 2014 is available at the House Committee on Agriculture webpage.
To contact Kasey Worst, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 517-227-0129.