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The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee released its version of the 2018 Farm Bill on June 8, presenting an opportunity for the Senate to reaffirm our national commitment to reducing hunger. Montana Food Bank Network applauds Montana’s U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and the rest of the Senate Agriculture Committee for developing a bipartisan bill that recognizes the importance and effectiveness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Unlike the House Farm Bill, which made harsh and indiscriminate cuts to SNAP, the Senate Agriculture Committee’s bill protects access to vital food benefits for children and their parents, seniors, people with disabilities and working people struggling to make ends meet on low pay and inconsistent hours. The Senate Committee’s commitment to bipartisanship on this vital piece of legislation stands in stark contrast to the efforts of the U.S. House to undermine one of our nation’s most powerful and effective poverty-reduction programs.

Montana’s food pantries and other emergency food providers see firsthand the struggles that people face in our state. Too many Montanans are experiencing health problems, high housing costs, limited incomes and other challenges that make it difficult to afford adequate and nutritious food.

Our collective effort to reduce hunger relies upon strong federal nutrition programs, with SNAP providing 12 meals for every one meal provided by the Feeding America network of food banks. SNAP helps more than 120,000 Montanans keep food on the table, including one in five children, supporting improved health outcomes and educational attainment. In addition, SNAP provides stability for one in 12 Montana workers, filling the gap when incomes fall short.

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While we applaud the Senate Agriculture Committee’s commitment to protecting SNAP, we encourage the Senate to further strengthen our anti-hunger safety net by increasing investment in The Emergency Food Assistance Program. TEFAP provides American-grown commodity foods to food pantries and meal programs, ensuring that local agencies have enough food on their shelves to meet the need for immediate food assistance in their communities.

As the Farm Bill process moves forward, we call on Montana’s congressional delegation to recognize the importance of passing a Farm Bill that supports our agricultural producers, our rural communities and the tens of thousands of Montana households who struggle to make ends meet. We urge Senators Daines and Jon Tester to support this bipartisan Farm Bill that avoids harmful changes to SNAP, while continuing to seek opportunities to further strengthen SNAP and our other anti-hunger programs.

Gayle Carlson is CEO of the Montana Food Bank Network.

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