Washington Update: Week of April 25

Washington Update

Global Food Security Act/Feed the Future

  • The Senate passed the Global Food Security Act (S. 1252) last Wednesday by voice vote with no vocal opposition! The House had passed its version of the bill (H.R. 1567) eight days earlier.
  • The Senate and House’s versions of the bill are slightly different. The two chambers will now need to reconcile the differences between the two bills. We are hearing there likely will not be a conference – when a committee of members from both chambers works out differences in a bill. Instead, it is more likely that one chamber will re-vote on the other chamber’s version, but which chamber will do that is unknown at this point.
  • At this point, Bread is not partial to either version of the bill. Our main desire is to see the legislation through final passage and signed by President Obama. We are mainly trying not to isolate any of our global food security and nutrition champions in either chamber by favoring one version over the other while our champions work together to find a solution. However, this could change once a path forward is decided.
  • In the meantime, Bread is asking activists to call (800/826-3688) the representatives who voted “yes” and all senators to thank them for their support, and to call the representatives who voted against GFSA or did not vote to tell them that this is important legislation.

More on this legislation:

Child Nutrition Reauthorization

  • Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) introduced the House’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill last week. The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003) reauthorizes child nutrition programs and makes a number of policy changes that would make it more difficult for children to access school meal programs in particular. The bill could be marked up in committee as early as this Thursday.
  • The bill is very similar to the leaked version we saw last week. A major harmful provision relates to community eligibility. Under current law, schools in high-poverty areas (where at least 40 percent of children qualify for free school meals) have the option to serve meals to all students at no charge. The provision allows more children to participate in school meals while streamlining meal programs and reducing paperwork. H.R. 5003 would raise this threshold from 40 percent to 60 percent. 7,000 schools currently fall below the 60 percent threshold, so it’s estimated this change would impact about 3.4 million children in those schools. Additionally, over 11,000 schools currently qualify under the current provision but would not qualify under the House proposal.
  • The bill also goes further than the Senate in increasing school meal application verification requirements. This could lead to more eligible children losing access to school meals. This change would disproportionately impact vulnerable families, such as those that are homeless, migrant, immigrant, or have limited English proficiency.
  • Regarding summer meals, while the bill does include some funding for summer electronic benefits (EBT) transfer, it’s capped at $10 million per year and is limited to eight states. The current appropriations process has funded summer EBT demonstrations at $16 to $23 million a year.
  • Bread released a statement on Friday opposing the bill as written and encouraging the committee to make improvements. (See Act Now below for action you can take.)

Budget & Appropriations

The House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill last Tuesday. The bill funds some domestic nutrition programs as well as international food-aid programs. Overall, the bill provides $21.3 billion for agriculture programs, $451 million below last year’s levels. As it stands, the bill includes funding for the following programs:

  • WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) – funded at $6.35 billion, level funding from FY 2016. The National WIC Association is confident that this funding will be sufficient to meet caseloads for FY 2017.
  • Summer EBT Demonstration Projects – funded at $21 million, $2 million less than what was enacted in FY 2016, but $5 million more than what was enacted in FY 2015.
  • Food for Peace (P.L. 480): No funding for local and regional purchase program and report language that is anti-food aid reform.

Food-Aid Reform

  • The House Armed Services Committee will mark up the annual defense policy measure starting Wednesday. There have been a few hearings recently mentioning food aid and cargo preference. Currently there is nothing in the existing bill on the issue, but we continue to keep an eye on it.

Act Now!

Call (800/826-3688) your representative, and tell him/her to oppose H.R. 5003, the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (see Child Nutrition Reauthorization section above or Bread’s statement opposing it).

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