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Monday, February 11, 2013

Domestic Food Assistance in 112th Congress 2012 Farm Bill Proposals: S. 3240 and H.R. 6083

Randy Alison Aussenberg
Analyst in Nutrition Assistance Policy

Many provisions of the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246) expired on September 30, 2012. On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act (P.L. 112-240), which included an extension of the 2008 farm bill through September 30, 2013.

This report focuses on the Nutrition title (Title IV) of the 2012 farm bill proposals included in the 112
th Congress’s Senate-passed bill (Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012; S. 3240) and House Committee-reported bill (Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012; H.R. 6083). These were five-year reauthorization proposals, and, while the 113th Congress must “start from scratch,” it is expected that these actions during 2012 will influence the farm bill formulation during the current Congress.

Title IV of both S. 3240 and H.R. 6083 would have largely maintained the nutrition program policies and discretionary and mandatory funding that are contained in the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 and other nutrition program authorizing statutes. Many provisions in the two bills were the same, but the bills also differed in a number of ways, most notably provisions related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated total 10-year budget savings of $4.0 billion in the Senate-passed bill and $16.1 billion in the House-reported bill.

SNAP policies constituted the bulk of Title IV of the 112
th Congress’s farm bill proposals, with notable differences between the Senate-passed and House-reported bills. SNAP provisions in both bills would have changed authorization requirements for retailers and some of the rules that govern participants’ and retailers’ redemption of SNAP benefits. Both bills would have provided additional mandatory funding for reducing SNAP trafficking (the sale of SNAP benefits for cash or ineligible goods), although the Senate bill proposed a larger amount. In terms of a household’s eligibility for SNAP and the calculation of monthly benefit amounts, both bills would have identically reduced the impact of a household’s receipt of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) benefits affecting the household’s SNAP benefit calculation. The House Committee bill also would have restricted categorical eligibility, a policy most responsible for the difference between the nutrition title cost estimates. The House committee-reported bill also would have repealed state performance bonuses, clarified the consideration of medical marijuana expenses, and made several other administrative changes. The House committee-reported bill would also have made changes to the nutrition assistance provided to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.

Both bills would have increased mandatory funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP, a major source of federal support for emergency feeding organizations), the Senate by $174 million over 10 years, and the House Agriculture Committee by $245 million over 10 years. Both bills would have limited eligibility for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) to low-income elderly participants, phasing out eligibility for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children.

Within the child nutrition programs, the Senate bill would have provided authorization and funding to continue a whole grain pilot program and authorization to begin a pulse crops pilot program. In contrast, the House committee-reported bill would not have included these pilots and would have eliminated the “fresh” requirement in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides such snacks in elementary schools. Both bills would have provided additional
authorizations for “farm to school” efforts to bring local agricultural products into school cafeterias.

Both bills proposed increases for Community Food Projects grants (the Senate by $5 million each year and the House Agriculture Committee by $10 million); H.R. 6083 also would have carved out $5 million of these grants each year for projects that encourage low-income households to purchase fruits and vegetables. The Senate bill would have added discretionary authority for a Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a financing mechanism to sustain and create food retail opportunities in communities that lack access to healthy food; and would have provided $100 million (over five years) in mandatory funding for Hunger-Free Communities Incentive Grants, which would fund programs that provide incentives for SNAP participants’ purchase of fruits and vegetables; neither of these programs had been included in the House committee’s bill.

Date of Report: January 24, 2013
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: R42829
Price: $29.95

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