SENATOR SULLIVAN QUESTIONS REASONING FOR DEFEAT OF BILL TO SUPPORT LOCAL FARMERS AND PROMOTE FRESH PRODUCE

Posted: June 01, 2011 | Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, News Items, Senator Sullivan
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AUGUSTA – As the Maine Legislature works its way to the end of the legislative session, debate around a bill to encourage the use of electronic benefit transfer funds (EBT) at local farmers’ markets found itself in a partisan divide.

The bill, LD 735, would require the State of Maine to work with the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets to develop a public-private partnership toward universal access of wireless EBT card readers to process federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds at local farmers’ markets in Maine. Private funds would need to be raised to cover the cost involved with the initiative.

“I applaud the intent of this legislation,” said Senator Sullivan. “It offers a solution to a multi-faceted problem.”

Senator Sullivan stated that the bill will support local farmers by expanding the consumer base to include low-income persons receiving federal assistance, as well as encourage a healthier eating habit and fresher food option. Recently, Senator Sullivan attended a meeting in Sanford with the York County farmers market manager’s panel and heard support for the use of EBT cards. The meeting was also a problem solving discussion for the few who now accept EBT cards.

“Many of the problems discussed would be addressed by this bill,” stated Senator Sullivan.

In a surprise to Senate Democrats, the Senate voted along party lines to defeat LD 735. Senator Sullivan questioned why Senate Republicans did not support the measure.

“It is disappointing to see a partisan vote on a bill that seeks an innovative public-private partnership to promote fresh food and our farmers’ markets,” said Senator Sullivan. “This bill was good for local small business and farmers – and more importantly – it was good for the people of Maine. Unfortunately, it looks like politics got in the way.”

Senator Sullivan added, “I am amazed that individuals and families using food assistance are not allowed to purchase fresh produce at a farmers market, yet they are allowed to buy soda in a store.”

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, SNAP benefits help low-income people buy the food they need for good health. A person may qualify for the program if they work for low wages, are unemployed or work part time, receive welfare or other public assistance payments, are elderly or disabled and live on a small income, or are homeless.

The full roll call vote on LD 735 can be viewed online at:

http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/rollcall.asp?ID=280039959&chamber=Senate&serialnumber=137

Senator Nancy Sullivan is serving her fourth term in the Maine Senate and represents Senate District 4, which includes the communities of Arundel, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and most of Biddeford.