Friday, May 03, 2013

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the 2013 Farm Bill

A picture with constituents
It was one of those rare rainy Saturday mornings in Albuquerque.  I think it was sometime in February.  We entered Duran Pharmacy's diner with our umbrellas dripping to meet up with a friend for breakfast.

Then I spotted Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham sitting at a table chatting with former Lieutenant Gov. Diane Denish.  I didn't want to interrupt her breakfast.  But I noted she was almost finished, so I walked up to her to simply thank her for having met with our small delegation of advocates back in November 2011 to talk about the Circle of Protection.  This is when there were five candidates seeking to represent the First Congressional District of New Mexico in the U.S. House of Represenatives.

Rep. Lujan Grisham was very gracious and, in fact, was eager to tell me why she had  decided to pursue an appointment to the House Agriculture Committee-and specifically the Subcommittee on Operations, Oversight and Nutrition.  With the high rate of food insecurity in New Mexico, she wanted a voice in the committee and subcommittee that addressed this problem directly.  And this subcommittee, which also includes Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, has an important has an important voice in nutrition programs. 

Fast forward to May 2013.  With the markup for the next Farm Bill scheduled for May 15, Rep. Lujan scheduled a meeting in Albuquerque to get input from her constituents.  The term Farm Bill is a misnomer.  It actually should be called something like the U.S. Comprehensive Food, Agriculture and Conservation Bill.  And if you recall, this was originally going to be the 2012 Farm Bill, but all the attention on budget cuts delayed consideration of the five-year legislation.  (If the 112th Congress had considered the legislation, we wouldn't hav had Rep. Lujan Grisham's voice in this debate, since she only took office in January).

I wasn't able to attend this meeting with constituents at New Mexico State University's Albuquerque campus.,but Albuquerque Business First did a nice job of putting together a summary of the discussions, which centered on all agriculture-related matters addressed by the five-year legislation.  Many of those in attendance were ranchers and farmers, who brought up issues related to agriculture in New Mexico.  Here is the full article.

The reality is that the May 15 mark-up of the US$1 trillion-bill comes in an environment of tight budgets and a sequester looming over us.  Here is what she told constituents,

“We’re going to be looking at how to manage cuts. That’s going to be largely what we’ll be talking about,” Lujan Grisham said.

But followed that comment with this statement.  “If there ever is a state that needs more support, it’s New Mexico.”

She was partly responding to comments from anti-hunger and nutrition advocates who mentioned to her that  federal cuts due to sequestration had forced the state to cancel several important programs, including an education component of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), still  known by many as the food stamps program. "She's listening to everyone. She cares a lot about food security," said a friend of mine who attended the meeting and also met with Rep. Lujan Grisham back in March.

A few Bread members, who are her constituents in the First Congressional District, are planning to visit Rep. Lujan Grisham's office on Lobby Day on June 11.  And we hope to follow up with a local meeting at her office in Albuquerque sometime this summer.  I suspect the Farm Bill and nutrition programs are going to be at the top of our agenda.

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