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Hill Chatter: Why the Farm Bill Matters to Latinos
Despite the fact that over 80% of farm workers are Latino, there are only 3 farms owned by Latinos for every 100 farms owned by whites.
The overall hunger rate in the U.S. is 11.5%, but percentage of Latinos who experience hunger or food-insecurity is 17%, nearly one in five.
On Wednesday, a Congressional Briefing on Latinos and the 2007 Farm Bill addressed these facts. John Salazar, the only Latino farmer in Congress, stressed the need to change our budget priorities to better help farmers and enable young people to enter the field. He also bragged about providing the “best smoked brisket in Washington” to Hill cook-outs, straight from his own farm.
Representative Joe Baca, D-Ca, plans to introduce a bill in the next few weeks that will support socially-disadvantaged farmers, help Latinos get into the farming business, and strengthen nutrition programs. Latino farmers are half as likely as white farmers to receive federal subsidies, which Baca blames on a lack of access to information on these programs. The next Farm Bill will promote better respect and treatment for Latinos. “Our day in the sun has come,” Baca said.
From the National Council of La Raza, Jennifer Ng’andu addressed the Food Stamp Program, which is funded in the Farm Bill. The current allotment of about a dollar a meal for each food stamp participant is not enough for a nutritious diet, she said. Instead, many Latinos buy cheap, calorie-laden foods instead. “They are forced to compromise their health and well-being to fill their stomachs,” she told the audience.
Certainly, the statistics indicate that Latinos are facing an epidemic of obesity. Nearly half of Hispanic three-year-olds are overweight or obese. A host of factors contribute to this, but research indicates that high food-insecurity leads to overeating when food is available and a quick walk through any supermarket will show you that purchasing fruits and vegetables is more expensive than loading up on Ramen.
Congress is expected to begin writing the Farm Bill legislation this month. Debates and revisions will likely last the summer. If you want to contact your member of Congress as they draft this important bill, do so now!
Visit this page for Bread’s sample letter and key facts about the Farm Bill:
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