Senate Democrats

Senate Farm Bill Provides Vital Funding for Nutrition Programs

This week Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, ushered to the Senate floor the 2007 farm bill – the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007. The measure passed the Committee on October 25th.

Senator Harkin said on the floor:

“The farm bill touches the lives of million of Americans – and no where is this more evident than in the nutrition title of the farm bill.  In the nutrition sections of this bill, we strengthen America’s commitment to fighting hunger and promoting sound health and nutrition.  By strengthening food assistance to low-income Americans, the bill that is before us will help millions of Americans who currently live in the shadow of hunger.  Because of the assistance that this bill provides, millions of Americans will put food on their tables, will be better able to afford child care so that they can enter the workforce, will be able to save modest sums for retirements and for the education of their children.”

There are number of important nutrition programs in the farm bill. The bill expands access to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to reach millions of elementary schools nationwide, and increases funding, grants and research to growers of fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.  utrition Highlights in the Senate Farm Bill:

Nutrition highlights in the Senate Farm Bill include:

  • The Senate Farm Bill Funds the Food Stamp Program Through 2012. Currently, the Food Stamp Program serves 27 million low-income Americans per month. The Farm Bill increases the food stamp asset limit from $2,000 to $3,500 for most households. For households containing an elderly individual or an individual with a disability, the asset limit is raised from $3,000 to $4,500. In addition, the measure excludes combat-related military pay from countable income, with respect to the food stamp program. With respect to nutrition, the measure authorizes nutrition education plans that promote healthy food choices by food stamp recipients that will be carried out by state agencies. [Senate Agriculture Committee Press Release, 11/1/07; CQ Bill Analysis, HR 2419]
  • The Senate Farm Bill Promotes Children’s Health Through Nutritious Eating. The Farm Bill expands the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides fresh produce to schools in every state and targets its benefits to low-income children. In addition, the measure funds the USDA Snack Program, which helps schools provide healthy snacks to students during after-school activities. Of note, the Senate Farm Bill expands this program to all 50 states. [2007 Farm Bill Nutrition Title Summary; CQ Bill Analysis, HR 2419]
  • The Senate Farm Bill Seeks to Transition Farmers into Organic Crop Production. According to Senator Harkin, the bill makes “it a priority to help farmers who are serious about getting into organic production, and we help them overcome the challenges of transitioning into this industry.” The measure includes $80 million over five years for research into organic production and marketing and includes $5 million for price, yield and overall data collection. Of note, the Senate bill removes the five percent surcharge charged to organic producers that want to reduce their risk by getting crop insurance. [Statement by Senator Tom Harkin, 11/5/07]
  • The Senate Farm Bill Promotes Farmers Markets and Locally Grown Foods. The Senate measure works to give farmers tools, such as grants and loans through the Business and Industry Loan program, to make it easier for them to aggregate or distribute locally grown foods from many small farms, and to market their products to larger retail stores. [Statement by Senator Tom Harkin, 11/5/07]

Senate Democrats and nutrition experts held a press conference today to discuss the important nutrition programs in the farm bill and the impact these investments will have on our children’s health. More details here.