Congress would dismember the farm bill if it adopted the ideas proposed by the conservative Republican Study Committee, whose membership includes four of every five Republicans in the House. In a budget package, the RSC said it would sever public nutrition programs from the farm bill, eradicate major farm supports and slash federal support of crop insurance.
The House and Senate passed different versions of a slimmed-down $3 billion extension of school nutrition waivers within hours of each other on Thursday, leaving to the House a final vote on the legislation on Friday. “I look forward to the president signing this into law,” said Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow.
While Republicans objected to the cost of public nutrition programs such as SNAP, the leader of the House Appropriations Committee said on Wednesday that “we will be doing something about extending the waivers of the school meals programs.” The waivers, a response to the pandemic that allows free meals for all public school students, are due to expire on June 30.
After decades of fighting hunger with food stamps, WIC, and school lunch, the USDA will raise its aim to nutrition security, meaning consistent access to healthful foods for all Americans, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. The new approach will rely on food education and outreach to neglected groups as well as stronger nutrition standards in federal food programs.
The Biden administration appointed Cindy Long as administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service on Monday, a position she has held on an acting basis since early January.
The USDA said Thursday it would buy $159.4 million worth of U.S.-produced seafood, nuts, fruits, and vegetables for its public nutrition programs, including donations to charity. The deal includes the agency's single largest purchase of seafood ever.
Sen. Cory Booker, the new chairman of the Senate nutrition subcommittee called for a permanent food box program to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to communities "in desperate need for healthy produce." Booker also said $20 billion a year should be devoted to USDA climate mitigation programs and that a moratorium should be imposed on mergers in the agricultural sector.(No paywall)
The Biden administration announced the appointment of three USDA deputy undersecretaries on Thursday: Stacy Dean for nutrition, Justin Maxson for rural development, and Mae Wu for marketing and regulatory programs.
President-elect Joe Biden's selection of Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary angered farm and food activists who feuded with Vilsack during the Obama years and had hoped for a progressive agenda under Biden. The largest U.S. farm groups welcomed Vilsack on Wednesday as an experienced leader for the recovery from the trade war and the pandemic.
Senate Republicans will ignore the "unserious" $3-trillion coronavirus relief bill passed along party lines by the House in favor of steps such as liability shields for employers, said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The House bill included $16.5 billion for cash payments to farmers and ranchers, double the amount in the package now awaiting approval by the White House budget office.(No paywall)
The USDA has issued waivers to 43 states that make it easier for schools to provide food to low-income children who lost access to free or reduced-price meals due to coronarvirus closures, said a spokesman on Wednesday. An anti-hunger group called for more flexible treatment and speedy handling of the burgeoning number of applications for food stamps. (No paywall)
Rebuffed in negotiations on the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that she will try again to raise SNAP benefits when Congress writes its next coronavirus bill. The House was scheduled to vote on the $2 trillion bill today. "I anticipate, I am certain, we will have a strong bipartisan vote," said Pelosi. (No paywall)
Delayed for weeks by the partial federal shutdown, the Trump administration published its proposal to restrict states from allowing able-bodied adults to collect SNAP benefits for more than 90 days if they are not working at least 20 hours a week. The Federal Register notice ignited a campaign to block the proposal, which opponents said is contrary to the 2018 food and farm law.
Two of the major public nutrition programs, SNAP and WIC, could run out of money if the partial government shutdown persists into February and beyond, affecting millions of people. While the USDA says funding is assured for this month, it is not as clear about what to expect in the future.
On Thursday, budget director Mick Mulvaney unveiled the federal reorganization plan that President Trump set in motion in his second month in office. Under the proposal, SNAP and WIC would be moved from the USDA to a new agency, the Department of Health and Public Welfare.
A Trump administration plan to reorganize the federal government would include consolidating food stamps, now run by the USDA, and other social safety net programs at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Politico.
In a quiet subcommittee vote, Congress declined on Wednesday to take delivery of “America’s Harvest Box,” the Trump administration’s headline-grabbing idea of sending a monthly box of nonperishable foods to SNAP recipients.
In the third installment of a five-part investigation into SNAP, Harvest Public Media explores how work requirements, the recertification process, and shame can prevent people with mental illness from accessing crucial nutrition services.