Idaho House Committee Approves Memorial Asking For More Idaho Control Over Food Stamp Purchases

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Even the sponsors of an Idaho Senate Joint Memorial, urging the U.S. Congress to give Idaho some flexibility on which foods are authorized for Food Stamp purchases, concede that the measure doesn't have much teeth, but they still want to join what they say is a growing list of states who want more say on purchases through the Supplemental Nutrition Program.

"I know that there have been more than a few black helicopters floating around this memorial," said Nampa Republican Rep. Christy Perry in presenting the issue before the Idaho House Health and Welfare Committee Tuesday morning.

But Committee Chairman Fred Wood cautioned Perry that her "black helicopters" comment was "not appropriate."

"Let's calm down," said Wood. "This is a joint memorial to Congress. We'll be fine. Now, let's move along."

And while they didn't arrive via black helicopters, lobbyists from the Northwest Food Processors Association and the Idaho Retailers Association pushed back, hard, against the memorial.

As written, SJM 105 would "respectfully seek flexibility" in Idaho's administration of the Food Stamp Program, "specifically encourage selections of foods produced in Idaho."

"To me, that represents a food list," said Elizabeth Kreiner, spokeswoman for the Northwest Food Processors Association. "We manufacture food based on pressures to consumer demands."

Kreiner said, "One person's junk food equation is someone else's potential health value."

But Perry argued that the Food Stamp Program puts $30 million into the Idaho economy.

"I don't see anything wrong with Idaho advocating for its own products. We should try to put some focus on them," said Perry.

Ultimately, the House Health and Welfare Committee voted to approve the memorial, sending it to the full House for its consideration.

The one hold-out, was Nampa Republican Rep. John Vander Woude, who referred to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to outlaw over-sized soft drinks.

"That's not a direction I want to go when we're talking about healthy choices," said Vander Woude. "That's some of the concern I have with this bill."