Oklahoma Food Bank Executives Press For Support Of 2023 Farm Bill

Executives with Oklahoma’s major food banks were in Washington this week, meeting with the delegation to press for continued support for what they say are critically important programs.

Friday, September 15th 2023, 6:57 pm



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Not only is the deadline to fund the federal government quickly approaching but so is the deadline to pass the 2023 Farm Bill, which has plenty of Oklahomans concerned.

The Farm Bill is a multi-year omnibus law that includes an array of food and agriculture programs, from commodity support to crop insurance to nutrition assistance programs, which, from a dollar standpoint, easily comprise the largest portion of the bill.

Executives with Oklahoma’s major food banks were in Washington this week, meeting with the delegation to press for continued support for what they say are critically important programs.

“In Oklahoma, we are really concerned about that because we have so many hungry people,” said Stacy Dykstra, CEO of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, about one in every seven Oklahoma families is food insecure, and in 2022, about 650,000 Oklahomans benefitted from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps.

“It’s the most effective nutrition program we have in our nation, and it lifts so many people in Oklahoma up in times of need,” said Dykstra, “and sometimes that’s just for a couple of months, and sometimes it’s for a little closer to six months or a year, but the bottom line is it works.”

Dykstra praises the Oklahoma delegation for wanting to help keep these programs funded. With some portions of the 2018 Farm Bill set to begin expiring at the end of September, Congress really only has one option — extend the current law.

“We do believe that we will be putting something forward, but it’s a negotiation and compromise,” said Rep. Stephanie Bice (R-OK5) in an interview Thursday, “and so it is likely you’ll see a continued resolution for at least a year likely before we come to some sort of consensus on what the spending levels would be on a new Farm Bill.”

But that's where it could get tricky, as some members want to take a closer look at programs like SNAP.

“It’s undermining work ethic, it’s undermining our workforce,” said Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-OK2) in an interview, “we’ve got many people who are looking for people to go hire, and they’re struggling because you have such an excessive social safety net program; instead of giving a hand up, it’s giving a handout.”

Food Bank leaders are trying to stay out of the political fight. They're just pushing for passage of a new Farm Bill -- whenever that is -- that's as robust as possible.

“We know that we have divided government. It’s why it’s so important for us to be walking the halls of Congress, speaking with one unified voice on those things that are most important to our constituents,” said Calvin Moore, CEO and President of the Eastern Food Bank of Oklahoma, “and to say, ‘Listen, hunger is not a partisan issue, it’s not a political issue.”

One of the leading voices in Congress on the Farm Bill belongs to Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK3). Lucas, however, is not in Washington at the moment due to an injury he suffered on his ranch six weeks ago. It’s not clear yet when he’ll be cleared by doctors to return to work.

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