Johanns Discusses USDA Nutrition Goals During National Nutrition Month
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today expanded on the Administration’s farm bill nutrition proposals, an area of farm policy which constitutes the largest part of USDA’s budget. The nutrition proposals would spend $467 million more than current programs. An additional $2.75 billion would be spent on the purchase of fruits and vegetables to improve nutrition in USDA food and nutrition programs.
“We drew up our nutrition proposals with three primary goals in mind — based on the feedback we received during our Farm Bill Forums. We recommend increasing program access for the working poor and elderly, moving America toward healthier eating habits, and making more effective use of taxpayer dollars. We will make certain our eligibility rules support both work and education wherever that is possible. We also want to improve our administration of the Food Stamp Program, strengthen its integrity, and finally rename it to reflect the changes that time and technology have brought since its inception in 1964.”
The Administration proposes the following changes to nutrition programs.
Food Stamp Program
-Increase food stamp program participation by excluding education savings accounts, retirement savings accounts, and combat pay from eligibility determination for food stamps. Participants could also fully deduct dependent care expenses. Additionally, some states would participate in a test pilot program that reimburses participants for work related expenses such as uniforms. These reforms are estimated to generate an additional $1.38 billion in program spending over ten years.
-Change the name of the Food Stamp Program to reflect the advances in technology that have made the stamps obsolete and better reflect the nutritional aspects of the program. The Administration suggests calling it the Food and Nutrition Program.
-Strengthen efforts to integrate nutrition education into the food stamp program by recognizing that nutrition education is a component of the program and investing $100 million to establish a five-year competitive grants demonstration program targeted at developing and testing solutions to the rising rates of obesity.
-Further improve program integrity by limiting automatic eligibility for those participants who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) services. Those who receive cash assistance through TANF or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) would not be affected.
-Allow the Secretary, in certain egregious trafficking cases, to seize and transfer the offending retailer’s funds to the Treasury and prohibit the exchange of food purchased with food stamp benefits for cash.
-Authorize USDA to charge State agencies five percent of administrative costs if the State is more than fifty percent above the national negative error rate for two consecutive years.
-Remove the new investment option for States sanctioned for improper payments for three consecutive years.
Other Food Assistance Programs
-Make The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) State plans permanent and remove barriers for local organizations to more effectively compete to participate in the program.
-Increase funding by $27 million over 10 years to better reflect the actual administrative costs of the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) and provide a structured method for allocating administrative funds among the Indian Tribal Organizations (ITO). Align nutrition assistance program disqualification policies to ensure that those barred from participation in FDPIR for intentional program violations are also disqualified from participation in the food stamp program.
-Exclude the value of the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) Benefits when determining eligibility for any Federal or State means-tested programs; prohibit States from participating in the SFMNP if state or local sales tax is collected on food purchased with SFMNP benefits.
Promoting Healthy Diets
-Support school efforts to provide meals based on the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Invest $6 million in mandatory funding to conduct a survey of foods purchased by school food authorities with Federal cash assistance once every 5 years.
-Provide new mandatory funding for the purchase of additional fruits and vegetables for use in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. This $500 million of funding over 10 years represents a net increase in the total purchase of fruits and vegetables for school meals over levels available under any other authorities.
-Increase Section 32 spending on fruits and vegetables by $2.75 billion over 10 years. This additional funding would potentially benefit all recipients of USDA’s food and nutrition programs.
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