WASHINGTON — The economic stimulus package that President Bush and Congress are quickly rolling out should include programs that help both businesses and consumers, especially those with the lowest incomes, Tim Hammonds, president and chief executive officer, Food Marketing Institute, told SN last week.
He suggested that one of the best ways to prompt consumer spending among those with the lowest incomes would be to increase food-stamp and unemployment benefits, but a tentative agreement late last week between the House of Representatives and Bush did not include those measures. Instead, the $150 billion package would be divided about 2:1 among consumers, in the form of tax rebates, and businesses, in the form of depreciation incentives meant to encourage investment.
As of late last week, the Senate had not yet reached an agreement on a stimulus package, but reports said some senators were strongly in favor of expanding payments to low-income consumers for both food stamps and unemployment benefits.
“If you are really going to try to do something to help the economy, you start with consumers, especially those with the most need,” Hammonds said.
He also said the business incentive portion of the package should encourage not only investment in physical infrastructure but in computer technology as well.
“We think it would be very important to provide some meaningful incentive for capital investment — which would include investment in equipment and fixtures like stores, warehousing and trucks — but in today's world, it's important to recognize that technology is a big piece of that, and that would include hardware and the software that goes with that,” Hammonds said.
He also suggested that legislators take a closer look at the Farm Bill, which is currently in joint committee after passing both the House and the Senate, to look for ways to reduce food costs.
“There are things in the Farm Bill that have increased subsidies for various commodities and certainly influence the cost of food broadly going forward,” he said. “It is an opportunity to rethink that package, with the idea of being able to make some adjustments that could have a very substantial and rapid impact.”