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Luckily, Kline will have to vote 'yes'

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Congressman John Kline is concerned about the conditions of the farm fields in his district (R-E, July 13-14). This is a good thing.

Additionally, he wants farmers to take advantage of federal aid available to them under the current farm law — also a good thing.

But Kline last week voted in favor of a farm bill that, for the first time in 40 years, failed to include the food stamp program.

This is the most important food program for farmers in the entire Department on Agriculture, representing 72 percent of the USDA budget.

While it is often viewed as an anti-poverty program, “food stamps” (a credit-type card today) are also one of the most important pro-farmer programs in the country.

Food stamp recipients receive an average of $4.40 per day or less than $1.50 per meal. In Minnesota, many families are below the food stamp eligibility threshold of 165 percent of the poverty line.

That exceeds 550,000 Minnesotans. They are our friends and neighbors. They may live on the top of the hill. They may have voted for Kline.

The average cost of a meal today is $2.56. Most families (90 percent) receiving food stamps run out of money the third week of every month.

Food stamps are not a giveaway. Able-bodied workers without dependents may be unemployed for no more than three months to remain eligible for food stamps. Illegal immigrants, many who pick our food and work the farms, are not eligible.

Some House Republicans promise to introduce a separate food stamp bill soon. However, Speaker John Boehner, with whom Kline votes 95 percent of the time, promised he would “get to those other issues later.”

In the meantime, because the House and Senate each passed a farm bill, a committee will try reconciling the two proposals. In describing the anticipated conference committee bill, Kline said, “My expectation is that I’ll hate it, and I will vote for it because we need to have farm policy.”

Lucky for the poor and hungry — and farmers — in Minnesota, food stamps might just have to be a part of that conference committee report. And, also lucky for the poor — and farmers — Kline might be forced to vote for it because he has to have a farm policy.

Bruce Yernberg

Red Wing

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