Early this morning, on a vote of 35-11, the House Ag Committee passed a Farm Bill. Seven Democrats voted against the bill in opposition to deep cuts to the SNAP program, and four Republicans voted against based on budget concerns and disagreements over the commodity title.
The passage of the House Ag Committee bill is an important step in the moving the Farm Bill process forward before the September 30th
expiration of the current law.
The bill includes strong support for some CFSC priorities, and also includes deep cuts that will have real impacts on food security, conservation, and sustainable agriculture programs.
The bill’s cuts to SNAP remain at $16.5 billion over ten years after several amendments to restore the cuts as well as ones to cut the program more deeply were all voted down.
The following CFSC priorities were included in the bill:
Community Food Projects (CFP) – Funding increased to $15 million per year with $5 million per year to be spent on SNAP incentives for the purchase of local foods
Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program – Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) expanded include the development of food hubs (as in the Senate bill) and funding doubled to $20 million per year
Improving ease of SNAP redemption at farmers markets, mobile markets and CSAs – It will be easier for SNAP families to use their benefits and CSAs and authority is given to USDA to test mobile technologies for ease of use at farmers markets, farmstands, and other non-traditional retailers
Farm to School – Authority granted to USDA to allow small school districts to source products locally instead of receiving USDA commodities and to establish 10 demonstration programs in larger districts around the country including one military base school
Support for urban and youth farmers through increased access to credit programs.
CFSC was disappointed to see that two important amendments were withdrawn from consideration:
Amendment (Fudge) to authorize grants and loans for retail in underserved communities through the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI)
Amendment (Walz, Noem, Fortenberry) to authorize a national Sodsaver provision to protect native grasslands and reinvest $35 million to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).
CFSC will keep you updated as the bill progresses to the House floor for a full vote. There is little time left on the legislative, so scheduling floor time will be a challenge. If the House passes a bill, a joint conference committee will negotiate a compromise bill. Ideally, both chambers would pass this bill before the current law expires on September 30th
. If not, Congress could pass a short-term extension of the current legislation with the final bill approved as part of the lame-duck session, or could pass a longer term extension and take the process up again in the 113th
Congress. Alternately, the Senate bill could be attached to a larger bill likely to pass in the House.