WASHINGTON - Today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry approved proposals for the nutrition and forestry titles of the 2007 Farm Bill. Congressman Joe Baca of California is the Chairman of the Subcommittee.
The Subcommittee considered discussion drafts outlining proposals under the Subcommittee’s jurisdiction and approved several amendments by voice vote. Copies of the discussion drafts and the amendments approved by the Subcommittee are available online. A brief summary of the discussion drafts considered and amendments adopted is included below.
“The Subcommittee markup today was an opportunity to have a very thoughtful and constructive discussion about the nutrition and forestry programs in the Farm Bill. I believe there is no greater responsibility for this Committee and this Congress than to provide for those who find it difficult to put food on their tables, and there is no greater investment we can make than ensuring that our nation’s children have enough to eat. In the forestry title, I am pleased that the Subcommittee has come to a consensus on thoughtful, cost-effective recommendations that have the support of environmental and industry groups alike,” Chairman Baca said.
“The programs under this Subcommittee’s jurisdiction, including nutrition and forestry, are crucial to American agriculture. The nutrition title maintains the critical link between agriculture and nutrition programs and provides assistance to millions of people throughout the country in need. Since the food stamp program distributes billions of dollars in benefits each year, it is imperative we ensure those dollars are getting to those who need it and not going to waste on those who don’t. In addition, the forestry provisions in this language are of great importance to all family foresters. As is true in my home state of Alabama, forests are extremely important throughout the United States, supporting more than 1.2 million jobs, providing recreation, and serving as home to a number of endangered species. We must continue to provide private landowners the support they need to keep their forests healthy,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Jo Bonner.
Nutrition: The discussion draft on nutrition programs considered by the Subcommittee raises the allowable deductions to expand eligibility for the food stamp program, expands the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for School Lunch programs to all 50 states and increases program funding, increases funding for the Emergency Assistance Food Program and the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, increases penalties for fraud violations, provides USDA additional flexibility to impose punitive fines for food stamp violations, completes the transfer from food stamp coupons to EBT cards nationwide, and reauthorizes the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. The Committee draft supports working families by eliminating the limit on the deduction for child care expenses used when determining food stamp eligibility.
The following amendments were approved by voice votes:
· Chairman Baca and Ranking Member Bonner’s amendment to rename the Food Stamp Program as the “Secure Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”
· Congressman Steve Kagen’s amendment to establish a competitive grant program to develop and test solutions to the rising rate of obesity in the U.S. and to strengthen efforts to integrate nutrition education into the Food Stamp Program.
· Chairman Baca and Congressman Charles Boustany's amendment to express the findings of Congress that Food Stamp Nutrition Education plays an essential role in dietary practices of low income Americans by providing public health and educational resources and to encourage State Food Stamp programs to use effective strategies to implement Food Stamp Nutrition Education.. The Amendment also directs USDA to support and encourage Food Stamp Nutrition Education and to promote the coordination of State Food Stamp Nutrition Education with other federally funded public health programs.
· Chairman Joe Baca’s amendment to express the findings of Congress that products purchased for school lunch programs should meet the current requirements for the Federal Buy American guidelines.
Forestry: The discussion draft on forestry programs considered by the Subcommittee extends many forest programs included in the 2002 Farm Bill and includes changes to improve the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act and the Healthy Forest Reserve Program. It also authorizes a new program to increase diversity in forestry by providing grants to Hispanic serving institutions to train students in forestry and related professional fields.
All markups will be broadcast live on the House Agriculture Committee’s website.