Lawmakers tackle rising food prices

As the cost of food spins out of control, public officials are scrambling for answers.

A May report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says food prices have climbed 10.8% since April 2021, the biggest 12-month increase in more than four decades. The spike in food prices nationwide is due to a number of factors occurring both at home and abroad.

Ukraine and Russia are major international exporters of grains, including corn, wheat and soybeans, among other commodities. The price of these products has increased exponentially due to the war, affecting markets globally.

“Food prices in the United States are rising because oil to deliver food, the cost of fertilizers, and the cost of planting and harvesting are all rising,” Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, said in a phone interview. “It all has to do with inflation, it has to do with oil and gas, and it has to do with the war in Ukraine.”

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) responded to growing concerns about food prices. He said the state legislature recently passed legislation that eliminates the fuel tax. This, coupled with actions at the county level, can help offset increases in food prices.

“The main thing we were able to do in this recently passed state budget is to remove — at least temporarily for the remainder of this year — the 16-cent state fuel tax,” he said. . “When you live here, for most people, you need a car to get your food, so these rising costs are linked.” He added: “We have also allowed in the state budget the commissioner for agriculture to sharpen his pencils to see what he can do to bring more food to market.”

The Suffolk County Legislature also suspended its fuel tax, effective June 1. Combined state and county measures, Englebright said residents are now getting a 26-cent-per-gallon-gas discount.

“It is very important that we now focus on getting the money we have in the state budget to these communities, not just to help business owners, but to help residents survive. through this process and through this inflation.” —Jodi Giglio

Despite the elimination of these fuel taxes, prices nationwide continue to inflate. State Deputy Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) said local residents are especially hard hit due to Long Island’s already high cost of living.

“We pay the highest taxes and the highest utility rates here on Long Island,” she said. “It is very important that we now focus on getting the money we have in the state budget to these communities, not only to help business owners, but to help residents survive. through this process and through this inflation.”

The recently passed state budget will provide residents with some relief in the form of direct cash payments through the New York School Tax Relief (STAR) program. Giglio said she and her Albany colleagues appropriated an additional $2.2 billion from the state budget and accelerated the delivery of those checks to help residents deal with inflation and rising costs.

“The $2.2 billion is for homeowners tax refund checks,” she said, adding. “This is a one-time check for STAR-eligible homeowners, and it’s aimed at individuals and families. New Yorkers will start receiving these checks right away and they should be in the coming weeks. »

It’s hard. We are in a very difficult situation with food prices, and families at the poverty line are suffering the most. —Kara Hahn

High food costs will also negatively impact pantries. Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) has expressed concern that rising food prices will only exacerbate the existing problem of food insecurity, making it even harder to feed those who need it.

“Food insecurity is a growing problem on Long Island,” she said. “We support a number of food pantries in Suffolk County. I’ve been involved in supporting Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, trying to make sure there’s no food waste. She added: “It’s difficult. We are in a very difficult situation with food prices, and families at the poverty line are suffering the most. »

“People will inevitably try to make their angst heard and understood, and one of the ways to do that is to go to the polls.” —Steve Englebright

The midterm elections loom large as Long Islanders brainstorm ways to put food on the table. At the current rate, spending on food will be at the top of the priority list for a major electoral bloc. Englebright acknowledges that if food prices do not come down quickly, there could be significant electoral consequences at all levels of government in November.

“People will inevitably try to make their anguish heard and understood, and one way to do that is to go to the polls,” he said. “It is a possibility, but I hope the sense of urgency does not require people to use it as the only way to have a sense of empowerment and optimism in the hope that we can use government instruments, as limited as possible. they can be, to help offset some of those costs and give people a chance to put food on the table.

Cantor reiterated those sentiments. He suggests voters are much more likely to vote for the opposition during a time of great tribulation. “The reality is that when people are angry, hungry and can’t work, they usually vote out incumbents,” he said. “When everything you touch costs more than what you earn, it makes you very angry and very upset. The poor and middle class will be affected the most.”