Committee Okays Nutrition Bill; Conservation Tapped for Offsets

March 26, 2010 Bookmark and Share

A child nutrition reauthorization bill approved unanimously by the Senate Agriculture Committee this week would increase spending on child nutrition programs by $4.5 billion over ten years.

The bill, known formally as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, would provide a significant amount of new money compared to the previous increase of $500 million over ten years, but less than half of the $10 billion over ten years called for in the Obama Administration budget.

Nationwide, over 30 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program each day and more than 10 million children participate in the National School Breakfast Program.

The bill approved this week would raise the reimbursement rate to schools for meals and includes a provision to create national school nutrition standards for all foods sold on school campuses during the school day.

As passed by the Committee, the new spending would be offset in part by a $2.2 billion decrease in authorization for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). However, at the hearing, Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) offered an amendment to instead offset the new spending through a decrease in funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The amendment was defeated, but Chambliss said he intends to offer it again during floor debate.

Though the timeline for floor action remains unclear, potential amendments have already been rumored and may include redirecting farm program payments, including direct payments, to nutrition spending.

NAWG is working with other agriculture groups and supporters on Capitol Hill to ensure the government’s contact with farmers through 2008 Farm Bill programs is protected until the bill is scheduled to expire in 2012.