Seventy nine percent of 2014 farm bill goes to nutrition assistance

2014-02-18T15:00:00Z 2014-08-22T16:09:06Z Seventy nine percent of 2014 farm bill goes to nutrition assistanceBy ANDREA JOHNSON, Minnesota Farm Guide Assistant Editor Sioux City Journal

Providing access to healthy food for families and individuals remains the top goal of the farm bill.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected the 2014 farm bill would spend $956 billion over the next 10 years, with $756 billion for nutrition assistance and $200 billion for agriculture. The nutrition portion would provide an average of $240 per year per person for the current U.S. population of 314 million.

The 2014 farm bill was signed into law on Feb. 7 by President Barack Obama.

The new farm bill reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and related programs for five years – although the costs and savings of the program are forecast over a 10-year timeframe by the CBO.

The 10-year projection includes a reduction of $8 billion in the nutrition title – part of $18.5 billion in reductions when compared with the 2008 farm bill.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP helps 47 million individuals each month afford an adequate diet.

The final bill kept many of the provisions of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 according to a report by the Congressional Research Service entitled “The 2014 Farm Bill: A Comparison of the Conference Agreement with the Senate-Passed and House-Passed Bills,” coordinated by Ralph Chite, section research manager, and dated Feb. 4, 2014.

The passed law did not include “ending broad-based categorical eligibility and ending the availability of labor-market based waivers from the time limit for certain able-bodied adults.”

Instead, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance will affect calculations of SNAP benefits. This is expected to reduce household benefit amounts in 17 states.

This SNAP benefit cut saves $8.55 billion over 10 years, and shrinks benefits to about 850,000 households by about $90 per month. The states have previously “stretched” SNAP benefits by assuming households pay several hundred dollars a month in heating and cooling utility costs – but that may not actually be the case. Curtailing this practice is expected to result in the savings.

The passed bill also states that offenders who are not complying with the terms of their sentencing will not qualify for SNAP benefits.

For fiscal year 2014 and 2015, a SNAP Employment and Training pilot project will receive a total of $200 million. This program will help states implement work programs for SNAP participants, and the program will be overseen by the USDA.

The passed bill also did not include the House provision that would have allowed states to administer drug testing as part of the eligibility for SNAP benefits.

The new law requires stores to stock more fresh foods and pay for electronic benefit transfer machines.

Additional funding is included in the bill to combat illegal sales of SNAP benefits.

An additional $100 million in mandatory funding over 10 years was included for Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive grants that support organizations with bonus incentives for SNAP purchases of fruits and vegetables.

The law increases funding to the Emergency Food Assistance Program to support emergency feeding organizations, including food banks, by $205 million over 10 years ($20 million annually).

In addition, there are changes to nutrition programs operated by tribes and territories, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and the distribution of USDA foods to schools. The farm bill also includes policies for the farm-to-school program.

Child nutrition programs, including the Women, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition Service had previously received funding.

The 2014 farm bill notes the importance of healthy food, and increases the emphasis of eating fruits and vegetables.

Copyright 2015 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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