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Sunday, November 3, 2013 - 11:00pm

Ga. Farmers Sweat As Congress Stalls On Farm Bill

People working in Georgia's largest industry are waiting as Congress struggles to pass a farm bill.

The sweeping package of agricultural subsidies has been in limbo since the summer, when House Republicans voted to remove funding for the food stamp program, which has traditionally been a part of prior farm bills.

David Green, who raises pasture-fed cattle in Jeffersonville, is most worried about losing funding for environmental programs within the farm bill, he said.

"You know, an example is there's cost share for us to implement conservation programs, like rotation...rotational grazing...things that really protect the soil and the water," Green said, adding that subsidies for water conservation are key for Georgia farmers.

The current farm bill lawmakers are considering also includes a fix for an international trade dispute that's been affecting Georgia cotton growers.

Georgia U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss urged compromise in a floor speech last week, calling on his fellow Republicans in the House to pass a farm bill that includes food stamp funding.

At the Mulberry Street Farmers Market in downtown Macon, farmers don't just accept food stamps — a lot of them use food stamps themselves, said Julia Asherman of Rag & Frass Farm in Jeffersonville.

Asherman just received a letter in the mail informing her that her monthly benefit is going down $50.00, she said. A bump in food stamp funding that came from the 2009 economic stimulus law expired Friday.

"That's a substantial decrease," Asherman said. "It's a decrease for the household, it's also a decrease for farmers who take EBT and SNAP at the market. There's less people to spend less money, so it affects both ends."