Food banks urge Texas lawmakers to fully fund state produce program

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 6:51 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Late last year, the Texas Department of Agriculture slashed funding to the Surplus Agricultural Products Grant Program by about 40%.

The 20-year-old program provides produce that Texas farmers cannot sell to food banks across the state.

The agency cut the program in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s call last summer for state agencies to trim their budgets by 5% amid the state’s budget woes.

“We’ve basically told our food banks, as of right now, you need to expect 40% less funding this year, so you need to ration yourselves,” said Celia Cole, the CEO of Feeding Texas.

She said that food banks are holding off on ordering produce while they wait to see if they’ll receive more funding later in the year.

Food access advocates are urging state lawmakers to fully fund the program this legislative session.

“We’re kind of in a holding pattern right now waiting to see if those funds will be released — if the Legislature will reject the cut,” Cole said.

“I think everyone’s on the same page that you don’t cut a program that feeds hungry kids and helps struggling farmers in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Cole said that the recent winter storm has made access to produce even more limited and increased demand for it at the same time.

“There’s just been devastating crop losses,” Cole said, noting damages to the state’s citrus and leafy green crops.

She said lawmakers will decide whether to fully fund the program this year in their supplemental appropriations bill, which usually passes around April.

As for the next two years, the first versions of the House and Senate appropriation bills fully fund the program at its previous levels, but Cole said she wants to see lawmakers do more.

“It’s really the time to be increasing funding to these programs,” Cole said.

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