Friday, June 14, 2024

Congresswoman Kim Schrier works to pass the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act

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On June 16, the US House of Representatives passed the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act by a vote of 221-204. The bill assists agricultural producers with the cost of agriculture and renewable fuels infrastructure as well as creates a special investigator for meat and poultry within the USDA and authorizes the USDA to make new loans and grants for livestock processing.

The bill would also increase federal cost sharing for environmental protection activities and authorize additional funds for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. The bill would support increased domestic production of biofuels, lowering the cost of fuel

Congresswoman Kim Schier voted in support of the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act. She is also supporting acts which help to lower consumer gas costs.

“At the same time that we are paying record gas prices, fossil fuel companies, oil, is raking in record profit. And so, I have a bill to address price gouging during the fuel emergency that we passed through the house a couple of weeks ago,” Schrier said.

“I introduced a bill to take a holiday from the federal gas tax. This would be a temporary measure until January 2023 to just give people a little breathing room because everyday people are feeling the high cost of gasoline. Frankly,  they’re feeling it at the pump, but they are also feeling it at the grocery store and everywhere else,” she continued.

Schrier said that farmers are feeling the high cost of fertilizer prices, which are correlated with fuel prices, because most of the fertilizer in the US comes from Russia. Another issue is that there are very few meat processors that control the vast majority of meat, she said. Farmers are not seeing increased profits from the higher cost of meat in the supermarket because of the monopoly that the meat processors have over meat, so increased meat processing competition is needed.

The increased costs are not only affecting farmers and consumers, they are affecting all aspects of the economy.

“We are seeing families who have to choose whether to fill up their tank or get food, so more families are reliant on food banks,” Schrier said. “And then we talk to the food banks, and they are saying it is way harder for them to afford food and the transportation of the food.”

Supermarkets are also making increased profits during this period of high food costs. Schrier said that Kroger, a nationwide supermarket chain, has profits which are up 338% compared to 2021, and this needs to be addressed.

Even though more families are hurting, the summer meal program will help kids in need. President Joe Biden signed the Keep Kids Fed Act on June 25, five days before it was set to expire, according to NPR. The act did not include an extension of the waivers or universal free meals in the budget, which started in March, as Senate minority leader Mitch Mconnell pushed against the extension.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers worked to ensure some of the school meal waivers would be extended and a nearly $3 billion plan was passed to extend all pandemic school meal waivers through the summer and increase federal reimbursements for school lunches in the coming school year. 

Before the pandemic, meals ranged from free to reduced to full price for students, depending on household income. During the pandemic, the waivers allowed all meals to be free. However, the current bill does not give every student free meals for the upcoming school year, according to NPR.

The bill allows summer meal deliveries and grab-and-go options and extends free meals through the summer. Before the pandemic, summer meals were only allowed in areas that had 50% of kids qualifying for free or reduced cost lunch and families had to meet income requirements to receive food. During the pandemic, those requirements were waived.

Schrier said that she does not know how long the food and fuel crisis will last. She said that the crisis is occurring worldwide, and that Congress is working hard to make citizens' lives easier and reduce costs. Schier emphasized that the effort to reduce costs goes beyond just the costs of food and fuel and extends to other parts of life like childcare, preschool, and the cost of prescription drugs.

Kim Schrier, food and fuel, Legislation, E27

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