Did you know that what you eat is impacted by the government? That’s right. Congress drafts legislation, debates the merits of the bills in committees and ultimately holds votes to see which proposals will be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
These bills deal with all sorts of topics. But no bill has as big of an impact on what Americans eat and their access to nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables as the United States Farm Bill.
So, what does the farm bill include? This bill makes legislative policy for:
- Farming and ranching
- Rural development
- Public health
Congress passed the last farm bill in 2014, and it is set to expire in just under six weeks. Congress will either need to pass a new bill or agree to extend the 2014 bill temporarily.
Farm bills play a key role in your life and the lives of all Americans. Policies set in the farm bill can improve access to healthy and affordable foods, so that they can live, learn, and work better.
Over the past year the United States House of Representatives and Senate have worked on separate versions of the farm bill. The two chambers have vastly different priorities in their legislation and now that both chambers have passed their bills, they have moved into what is known as a conference. During the conference select representatives and senators come together to work out the differences between the bills.
While this is happening, we need to make sure that all our elected officials know that we want them to make nutrition a priority and support farm bill policies that will preserve and increase access to healthy foods.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food purchasing assistance to our nations most vulnerable, including children, the disabled, the elderly, veterans, the underemployed, and low-and no-income people across the country. Protecting access to and benefits of such an important program that provides food security to millions should be a priority for any proposed farm bill.
- The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) provides the most disadvantaged children with much needed education on and access to fresh fruits and vegetables that they cannot get elsewhere. Protecting the integrity of the program as fresh-only ensured that these children receive much-needed education and exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables they may not get elsewhere.
- The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program provides extra fruits and vegetables to SNAP participants wherever they buy fruits and vegetables. As low-income people consume the least amounts of fruits and vegetables, FINI helps close that gap and the farm bill must include robust support for the program.
- SNAP-Ed provides vital education necessary to address food insecurity and poor nutrition. The House and Senate bills propose very different approaches to SNAP-Ed, with the House bill cutting the program. Nutrition education must be preserved by adopting the Senate proposal.
Some members of Congress are looking to make deep cuts to these vital programs that help keep our country healthy. Preserving and improving policies and programs that increase access to nutritious food like fruits and vegetables needs to be the goal of all involved.