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Arizona groups watching final farm bill debates closely

Posted at 7:06 PM, Dec 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-10 21:06:06-05

A decision made more than 2,000 miles away could impact how the hungry are fed in Arizona and all over the country.

The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill is a very extensive bill that covers a wide range of agricultural issues, including farmer subsidies, food safety, trade, nutrition support, and the most talked-about and controversial component: food stamp assistance.

Here in Arizona, staff at the Arizona Farm Bureau said they are "waiting with bated breath" to see a revised version of the bill that is expected to be voted on this week.

The revised bill is expected to contain new language after many heated debates and revisions made on Capitol Hill. Earlier versions contained a provision that would have required many "able-bodied" workers to work or attend some type of job training program in order to stay eligible for SNAP, or food stamp, benefits.

After much discussion, some lawmakers have said that provision has been removed from the bill just so they can get the votes needed to get it passed.

That provision is also one that had Valley food banks on alert.

Many food pantries worried the "work" provision would have pushed hundreds of thousands of Arizonans off government assistance and looking to them to help feed their families.

"We were very concerned about the large number of people who would be impacted in Arizona. We believe it would have been 290,000. We were concerned about where they would go to find jobs that would help them feed their families," said Angie Rodgers with the Association of Arizona Food Banks.

Other items to watch on the farm bill is the declassification of hemp as a controlled substance and reclassified as an "agricultural commodity," a switch that could make it the next big cash crop in America.

Looser restrictions of organic food labeling and what is on your child's school lunch plate are also two items that could change.

Congress is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday.