President Signs Bill Linking Farmers, Nutritionally-at-Risk Women
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A program that helps farmers find new markets for their fresh produce while boosting the diets of low-income mothers and children could be significantly expanded under legislation signed by President Bush.
The bill Bush signed last week could double federal spending on the farmers’ market program while allowing more states to participate.
Currently operating in nine states, the program provides coupons to nutritionally-at-risk women and children that can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets.
The program targets some of the 5 million participants in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. Regular WIC assistance includes such staples as milk, cheese, eggs, infant formula, cereal and juice.
Under the WIC-Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, pregnant and nursing women and mothers of young children also receive coupons each summer, worth a total of $10 to $25, for fresh fruits and vegetables purchased at farmers’ markets.
″It’s a win-win program. Pregnant women and parents of low-income children receive fresh fruits and vegetables necessary for good health and small farmers gain access to new customers,″ said James Stephenson, president of the National Association of Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs.
″The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is an innovative and effective way to promote fresh fruits and vegetables among nutritionally-at-risk families,″ said Stephenson, an adviser to Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey.
Pennsylvania is one of the nine states participating in the program. The others are Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Washington and Vermont. Last summer, 400,000 WIC participants and 3,400 farmers participated in the program at 400 markets.
The bill signed by the president last week would allow any state or territory to apply to receive federal funding to operate the program. The law also recommends that Congress set aside $6.5 million to fund the program in 1993.
Federal spending this year totals $3 million. States are required to provide a 30 percent match.
The president has argued that the money spent on the farmers’ market program could be better spent bringing needy women and children into the traditional WIC program. There was no immediate explanation for the president’s decision to sign the bill despite the administration’s stated objection to funding the program in 1993.