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Smith discusses pending legislation
July 25, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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During a stop in Gering for Oregon Trail Days, U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith talked about some of the legislation currently being considered in the House.

Congress recently passed a revised version of the Farm Bill, separating its two components – the agricultural portion and the nutrition title, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called the Food Stamp Program. Approximately 80 percent of spending in the Farm Bill is taken up by the nutrition title.

“Food Stamps have more than quadrupled in spending in the last 12 years,” Smith said. “We want a stronger nutrition program. Because of the way it’s structured, we need to give more scrutiny to the program.”

He said there have been concerns that resources in the Farm Bill are being spent to actively recruit Americans to take advantage of Food Stamps.

The two components of the Farm Bill weren’t separated in the version passed by the Senate. Smith said he was disappointed the House was sending a bill to conference committee between House and Senate without reforms to the nutrition title.

“While this is neither a perfect bill nor the approach I would have taken, I remain committed to a long-term Farm Bill,” he said. “I am encouraged the process is moving ahead. I welcome more debate and look forward to the bill moving to conference.”

Smith said there have also been early discussions on how to address the ongoing deficit in the U.S. Postal Service. One idea that had been floated was to close many smaller post offices, primarily in rural areas.

In 2011, the Postal Service said it was considering the closure or consolidation of 3, 652 postal facilities. Ninety of them were in Nebraska. Estimates showed that closures would reduce the Postal Service’s $5 billion shortfall in 2011 by about four percent.
“These proposed closures don’t even begin to solve their financial problem,” he said. “I’ve introduced a bill that says no more than five percent of closures and consolidations can come from smaller, rural areas in any given year.”

Smith said in addition to a cap on closures and consolidations, his bill would set guidelines for any closures to assure the people retain their access to the Postal Service.

Smith’s bill would require 60 days notice of any intended closure of post offices and customers must be surveyed to determine their preferences for alternatives.
Another proposal would reduce the number of hours that post offices are open. But Smith said individual communities need to be consulted before making such a decision.

“We should seek community input as to alternatives,” he said. “Every community is going to be different, and any legislation needs to be flexible enough to accommodate their needs.”

Smith added that given the importance of universal service, smaller, rural post offices shouldn’t be disproportionately targeted. “This bill is a common sense solution which would help the Postal Service uphold its mission to serve all Americans while it addresses its long-term fiscal challenges.”

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