A version of the long overdue farm bill was passed by the house this week, slashing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps by $39 billion over the next 10 years.
The new bill also, however, carries over all of the provisions of the nutrition title that was written and adopted by the House Agriculture Committee, as well as amendments to the Committee bill that were adopted on the House floor prior to the House then defeating the bill.
Several of these changes deal with the development of local and regional food systems and healthy food access. These changes remain the same from the House Committee bill (H.R. 1947) and include:
- A pilot program allowing retail food stores, farmers markets, and direct producer-to-consumer marketing outlets to accept SNAP benefits from SNAP recipients through mobile transactions.
- The ability of SNAP to be applied towards Community Supported Agriculture subscription payments.
- Within community food projects, the addition of $5 million in funding to provide incentives for fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income individuals.
- A Farm-to-School pilot program within the Department of Defense Fresh Program allowing 5 states to test purchasing and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Another Farm-to-School option that allows the Secretary of Agriculture to grant small school districts the authority to substitute locally and regionally grown food in their school meal programs if it would also reduce administrative costs.
- Farm-to-School Demonstration Programs that would allow schools to increase the purchase of foods from local and regional producers, test procurement, meal preparation, and transportation, and assess cost savings.
- A Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) to authorize USDA work with grocery stores, farmers markets, and other healthy food retail markets to locate or expand in underserved, low-income areas.
- Changes to the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) that would do away with a stand-alone Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), transfer SFMNP’s mandatory funding to FMNP, and instead provide at least half of the funding for FMNP be set aside for seniors.
Certain provisions of the farm bill will be stopped on October 1st if both houses can not agree on a version of the bill. These inclue the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program as well the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program.