Senate’s Farm Bill and Nutrition Programs

May 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

The US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry recently released their draft for the 2012 Farm Bill, entitled the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act.  The committee was hard pressed to search for ways that this farm bill could reduce the deficit and eliminate redundant and confusing programs.  In the end, they were able to reduce the deficit by $23 billion dollars.

Contrary to public thought and the major press releases, the majority of the spending in the Farm Bill’s budget focuses on nutrition programs, not crop subsidies or insurance.  The majority of that budget is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as SNAP or Food Stamps.  This program is considered a safety net to ensure that lower-income individuals can still secure healthy food.

In light of these cuts, the Committee still made a few changes that could have a good impact on increasing low-income access to healthy foods.  One major section that will surely draw attention is the new requirements the bill would place on retailers participating in the SNAP program.  The bill increases the requirements for participating so that each vendor must carry three of the four following categories: “Dairy products; meat, poultry, or fish; fruits or vegetables; and bread or cereals.” Previously retailers were only required to carry two of these four categories.

This is in addition to new incentive programs that would encourage SNAP participants to purchase fruits and vegetables, such as the “Double Up Food Bucks” programs that offer federal matching funds for qualifying purchases, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program which offers coupons for eligible foods from local farm vendors, and a new program that allows SNAP to be used to purchase shares in Community Supported Agriculture programs.  These programs can offer support to the growing movement across the United States to start buying and offering local, healthy food to low-income communities.

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Entry filed under: Economic Development, Farm Lending, Healthy Foods.

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