Speaking on this week’s Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D- Maine, discussed the challenges that the debate to raise the debt ceiling could pose for programs in the farm bill’s nutrition title. 

Approximately 75% of annual farm bill spending supports nutrition programs, which makes it a “place where the greatest cuts could be made,” Pingree said. But she also stressed that families across the country need assistance as they battle inflation and rising food costs after the pandemic. 

“Hit somebody else’s budget. Don’t go after the farm bill,” she added, agreeing with what Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D- Mich., has already said.

Increasing the availability of fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy foods for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients is her goal. Although “there is a chance that it’s going to cost us more,” Pingree argues that it’s an important investment to prevent and treat conditions influenced by diet like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

"Almost all of those can be corrected or supported by having a better diet," Pingree said.

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Asked about her goal to create a more climate-friendly farm bill, Pingree referred to farmers as “real partners in sequestering carbon.” She does not foresee new language regarding conservation programs but would like to focus on the accessibility and expansion of oversubscribed programs.

Pingree also discussed FDA Commissioner Robert Califf's recent announcement to reorganize the agency’s human foods program, sharing her perspective as a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over FDA.

Tom Chapman of the Organic Trade Association, Jacqlyn Schneider from FGS Global and James Glueck of Torrey Advisory Group joined the panel to discuss improvements that can be made to organic programs and ways to address the priorities of each party in the 2023 farm bill.  

You can watch this week’s show on www.Agri-Pulse.com

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