CHN: House Approves Agriculture Spending Bill

On June 8, the House voted 208 to 18 to approve H.R. 2744, a bill funding the Agriculture Department for fiscal year 2006. The bill provides funding for certain nutrition programs, as described below.
The House rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) that would have withheld food stamp funds from states that failed to investigate the family financial sponsorship of immigrant applicants. Currently, immigrants have sponsors who agree to help support the newcomers. This amendment would have required states to investigate the financial status of an immigrant’s sponsor when the immigrant applied for food stamps. If the state did not investigate, the state would lose its entire food stamp funding. The amendment failed 169-258.

Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, Children (WIC) was funded at $5.257 billion, $22 million above this year’s level. In its budget released in February, the Bush administration proposed a higher level of funding. However, recent estimates for WIC participation and food costs have gone down, and advocates and committee members believe the $5.257 billion in funding is adequate. The bill also provides $125 million for a contingency fund.

The President’s budget proposed capping the level states could spend on nutrition services and administration at 25 percent, but appropriators rejected the cap. However, another Administration proposal related to individuals eligible for both Medicaid and WIC was adopted. Currently, individuals eligible for Medicaid are automatically assumed to be eligible for WIC. Under the new rule, families above 250 percent of poverty – even if they are receiving Medicaid – are no longer considered automatically eligible to receive WIC. This change would affect families in six states (Rhode Island, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maryland) that offer Medicaid above 250 percent of poverty.

Farmers’ Market Nutrition was funded at $20 million, the same amount as last year. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) was also funded at the same levels as last year – $140 million for mandatory commodity purchases, $50 million for transportation and storage costs, with up to an additional $10 million in additional administrative funding.

The House funded the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) at $107.7 million, $3 million less than last year’s funding, and far below the $136.3 million urged by food advocates, who say additional funding is needed to maintain current caseloads, due to increased food package costs.

Action now moves to the Senate. The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee plans to mark up a bill on June 21. The Food Research and Action Center is urging advocates to contact the Senate appropriators with specific recommendations:

House Report 109-102: )

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