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Food Prices Rise Along With Government Expenses

June 22, 2008

Sudden price increases compounded by soaring fuel and health care have meant financial strain that is unprecedented since the late 1970s. The government has determined that a minimal food budget for a family of four is $576 monthly, even as the budgets of most Americans strain.

In the past year, the cost of food for what the government admits that a minimum nutritional diet has reportedly increased 7.2 percent nationwide. While food prices are up 20% in many cases, this is clearly a step in the right direction. The sharp rise in food prices is acutely felt by poor families on food stamps through the federal food assistance program and most Americans on a budget.

Congress passed a farm bill in May 2008 designed to raise the minimum amount of food stamps that families receive, starting in October. The bill was passed by Congress over President Bush’s veto. For the first time since 1996, the amount of income allowed for food stamps has been raised, allowing for families of fewer than four to keep up with costs like housing or fuel without having their food stamps benefit reduced.

The Congressional five-year farm bill will increase spending on food stamps and other government nutrition programs while maintaining most existing farm subsidies during a time of record profits for farmers to the tune of $300 billion. The bill allows an extra $1 billion yearly for food stamps increases while trimming subsidies modestly on land that is not farmed.

The deal also included a $3.8 billion disaster relief program for farmers, which will end up being needed in a very dramatic way by farmers in the Iowa-Mississippi River area that have been flooded out. The deal earmarked a tax cut of up to $1.8 billion, including depreciation incentives for racehorse breeders sought by Republicans in Kentucky.

The farm bill deal is allegedly paid for with customs fees, mostly paid by importers, to finance the new spending in the bill. The White House previously supported import fee financing because the bill did not impose new taxes.

More and more Americans across the board are becoming concerned about “food insecurity” or maintaining the ability to keep their family adequately fed. Some Americans are making tough decisions to water down milk for kids or not purchase medication to keep money for food. Running out of food staples is becoming more common.

In some countries, higher food prices have led to riots, political instability and growing worries about feeding the poorest people. Americans are fortunate that they still have the ability to cope with high food prices, as well as a government that provides food benefits for Americans with low-level poverty incomes.

Recent floods in U.S. farm country combined with corn ethanol production should prove interesting in the upcoming future since almost half of farm food production has been lost. Strange floods and drought conditions in many other world breadbaskets compound the strain globally. The pressure on outside nations will only increase since stockpiles of extra food have been depleted in the United States. Even local food kitchen and pantries are having difficulty meeting the need while America is enduring a declining economy brought about by unparalleled banking and mortgage greed that has been foisted on the world.

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