71.3 F
69.1 F
70.2 F
66.9 F

Tuberville bill to expand food options in senior program draws growing bipartisan support

As a member of the Senate Agricultural Committee, Sen. Tommy Tuberville is the voice for Alabama’s farmers in Washington.

Last fall, Tuberville (R-Auburn) joined Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) to introduce legislation which would make pecans and other tree nuts eligible for the USDA’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Tuberville said the legislation is experiencing growing bipartisan support in the Senate and House.

“I introduced The Farmers Market Expansion Act, to combat the issues I heard from producers and provide additional nutrient-rich options for SFMNP-eligible seniors at no additional cost,” he said. “My bill will open a new market for tree nuts and increase their demand, putting more revenue in growers’ pockets to cover expenses and continue producing.

“This legislation will allow common tree nuts to be purchased using SFMNP coupons at farmers’ markets, farm stands, and within community-supported agriculture boxes, all of which are eligible venues for the program.”

The Alabama-New Mexico bipartisan connection continued in the House as Reps. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and Gabe Vesquez’s (D-N.M.) introduced companion legislation.

“Adding tree nuts, especially shelled pecans, to the Seniors’ Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program benefits Alabama producers and seniors,” said Moore. “Pecans are an important part of Alabama’s agriculture, and we are hopeful this legislation creates competitive markets for our tree nut producers.”

In Alabama, pecan growers harvested approximately 3 million pounds across 9,000 pecan-bearing acres in 2022.

The SFMNP provides fresh, nutritious, locally-grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey to eligible low-income seniors. These seniors must be 60 years of age or older and have a household income of no more than 185% of the federal poverty level. Eligible seniors can exchange coupons for program products at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs.

According to the USDA, in fiscal year 2022, the SFMNP had 757,751 seniors participate and 15,089 farmers sold products through the program across the country. Annual program benefits vary per state between $20 – $50 per year, with over 54,000 eligible seniors in Alabama.

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.

Don’t miss out!  Subscribe today to have Alabama’s leading headlines delivered to your inbox.