Harvest Box reviews and new office space coming ( The Packer )

Billy Graham was 99 when he died and by that measure I have spent nearly one-third of that span at The Packer, doing a sort of evangelism and truth-spreading for the fresh produce business. 

When I started in 1984, The Packer’s editorial and sales staff were housed in a brick one-story office in College Boulevard, in southern Johnson County, Kansas.

In 1995, The Packer moved to West 84th Terrace in Lenexa, a few miles to the north of our old office.

Today, The Packer — of course now owned by Farm Journal — is moving just a little west, with our new offices at 8725 Rosehill Road, Suite 200, also in Lenexa.

Moving day has me with plenty of work, paper to toss, files to empty and memories to savor, but little time to do it all.


Check out some recent news on SNAP:

The Harvest Box idea from the USDA - delivering shelf stable food aid in a box - continues to get more reactions. Here is another take from Craig Gundersen, an ag economist at the University of Illinois. Gunderson, according to a news release, studies the causes and consequences of food insecurity and the impact of food assistance programs on public health. Here are a couple of interesting exchanges from his Q and A.

Is this idea aligned with the Trump administration’s stated intention of cutting SNAP by more than $213 billion over the next decade?

In the past, a lot of these proposals for giving poor people baskets of food in lieu of food stamps were the province of the political left. There are a number of people in the public health community who argue that SNAP beneficiaries shouldn’t be able to choose what to eat, and that they should be prohibited from purchasing certain items – soft drinks, sports drinks, certain cereals.

What happens is, when you stigmatize SNAP, fewer people sign up for it. So the idea of giving people food baskets and eliminating choice is just another way to insult and disenfranchise people and hope it has the intended effect of fewer people signing up for benefits.

If you want to kill a program without actually killing it, this is how you do it.


What effect would this have on big-box retailers?

Big-box retailers have come out against the idea. Yes, it’s in their interests to come out against it because it affects their customer base. But one of the great things those big-box retailers do is keep food prices low. This is one of the reasons why many of their customers are low-income Americans: SNAP recipients can go to a big-box store and purchase safe, nutritious food at a very reasonable price. But even though these retailers have a customer base of SNAP recipients, it’s a fraction of their total sales.


More on SNAP...

While Trump would like to trim the SNAP budget, others want to increase it. Check out a new study from The Urban Institute called "How Far Do SNAP Benefits Fall Short of Covering the Cost of a Meal?"


Finally, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the USDA is looking for public input on “innovative ideas to promote work and self-sufficiency among able-bodied adults participating in the department’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”

Now those comments should be interesting.

From the release:

“Long-term dependency has never been part of the American dream,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “USDA’s goal is to move individuals and families from SNAP back to the workforce as the best long-term solution to poverty. Everyone who receives SNAP deserves an opportunity to become self-sufficient and build a productive, independent life.”

Federal law limits the amount of time an able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD) can receive SNAP benefits to three months in a 36-month period, unless the individual is working and/or participating in a work program half-time or more, or participating in workfare. The law exempts individuals from the time limit for several reasons, including age, unfitness for work, or having a dependent child. The law also provides state agencies with flexibility to request a waiver of this time limit if unemployment is high or the area does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment.

“Too many states have asked to waive work requirements, abdicating their responsibility to move participants to self-sufficiency. Past decisions may have been the easy short-term choice, but USDA policies must change if they contribute to a long-term failure for many SNAP participants and their families,” Perdue said.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal, released on Feb. 12, proposes to limit waivers of the time limit for ABAWDs to counties with 10 percent unemployment over 12 months.

“The SNAP safety net must be there for those unable to work due to disability or another legitimate reason,” Perdue said. “But for the able-bodied, we must reduce barriers to work, and hold both individuals and states accountable for participants getting and keeping jobs.”

Starting tomorrow, the public is invited to submit comments or ideas on helping able-bodied SNAP participants find work and become self-sufficient through federalregister.gov. The comment period will be open through April 9, 2018. 


TK: Trump’s team continues to hit the populist notes that got him elected. Don’t tell me you are surprised. It makes me wonder if the hope of a modernized NAFTA is too much to cling to.