As the manager of a farm in the Flathead, I spend a lot of time with my eye on the sky worrying about what kind of weather we’ll be dealing with next. But I’m more concerned about my community members’ access to healthy food than what the weather will throw at me – because the Farm Bill could take away SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) from recipients who are individuals with developmental disabilities at the end of the summer.
Our farm hosts people of all abilities as part of the Care Farm Program. This program offers individuals with special needs and senior citizens the opportunity to spend time on local farms and ranches, participating in the daily routines of farm life. Our clients come every week year-round. It is an amazing program and provides folks with job training skills, outdoor exercise, and environmental therapy depending on the individual needs. This program benefits all members of our farm team through fostering new relationships.
The House farm bill includes harsh work requirements that would hurt Montanans with developmental disabilities. Adults receiving disability benefits would likely be automatically exempt from the expanded work requirements, but the fact is that many people with disabilities do not receive those benefits and would have to prove they qualify for an exemption. Still others are full-time caregivers for adult and child family members with health impairments who do not have time to meet additional work requirements.
The House bill would take away SNAP benefits from these folks if they can’t navigate a difficult bureaucratic exemption process or meet the work requirements. We need a farm bill that would support and strengthen SNAP – not make it harder for people to access crucial nutrition assistance. I can’t support a farm bill that would hurt our amazing community members who live with different abilities. Additionally, SNAP helps local farmers by ensuring that peoples’ food dollars stay local and go to farmers in our community. I urge our Montana delegation to reject the House farm bill and look to pass a final bill that helps all Montanans.
Whitney Pratt is farm manager at Purple Frog Gardens in Whitefish.