Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Opinion

September 12, 2013

Rural issues affect our local communities, entire state

(Continued)

The U.S. “Farm Bill” minimally supports farmers.

Because of its name, most people think the “Farm Bill” is only an agricultural aid package. While it does contain help for farmers, it actually funds everything from conservation to rural development, with most of the money allocated for federally-subsidized nutrition programs. In fact, approximately 78 percent of Farm Bill spending will support food assistance programs, like Indiana’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps.” 

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the “Farm Bill” and stripped out funding for nutritional assistance programs. However, Congress has adjourned for its August recess and will have to take up the controversial legislation upon returning in mid-September. The “Farm Bill” was originally designed to incentivize and protect family enterprises, with their exceptional risks and tight margins. Unfortunately, the bill as we know it is less about family farms and more about providing food assistance through SNAP, free and reduced lunch programs and the Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program.

Rural first responders desperately need additional assistance.

Did you know Indiana is home to more than 800 volunteer fire departments and 16,000+ volunteer firefighters? Our first responders are vitally important to our rural communities, yet funding issues plague their ability to provide top-notch service to Hoosiers. Some rural fire departments have not updated their equipment—including fire trucks—since the 1970’s, due to budget constraints and equipment replacement costs. Although Indiana requires township trustees to provide adequate fire services to local citizens, tight budgets force volunteer fire departments to hold fundraisers, such as fish fry events and festivals. If so many citizens rely on local volunteer firefighters, we need to find solutions to provide adequate funding levels. 

I encourage you to get involved in issues affecting our rural community. An upcoming event, the Indiana Rural Summit: Partnering for Economic Health and Community Success will be held Oct. 3-4 at the Sheraton Indianapolis at Keystone Crossing. For more details about the summit, visit  http://www.in.gov/ocra/ruralsummit.htm. 

As always, you may contact Sen. Jean Leising directly via email at s42@iga.in.gov or call 1-800-382-9467.

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