Senate farm bill helps Marianas

Jul 8, 2018

Our friend, Senator Lisa Murkowski, has successfully amended the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, H.R. 2, to provide financial help to her own Alaskan farmers, as well as those in the Marianas and other insular areas. A $250,000 allocation to the Commonwealth will fund grants of up to $10,000 to non-profits, such as churches or food banks, helping those in need of food. Federally-funded schools, including Head Start, will be eligible for the micro-grants, as will our municipal governments, which do not have taxing authority. Individuals may apply for grants up to $5,000. A ten percent match will be required. The funds can be used for purchase of gardening tools and equipment, composting units, hydroponics, a slaughterhouse, or other uses that address food insecurity in remote areas.

Senator Bernie Sanders had prepared an amendment to the farm bill, adding Puerto Rico and American Samoa to SNAP, the national food stamp program. I was able to convince him to revise it to include the Marianas. The Sanders amendment did not make it into the final, Senate-passed bill; but we now have greater awareness that the Marianas must be included in SNAP. The farm bill now goes to a conference committee of the House and Senate.