By Stephanie Crandall
Last week, both the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees passed their own versions of the Farm Bill, which establishes federal policies impacting cities and towns in the areas of rural development, conservation and nutrition. Current programs were authorized by a nine-month extension in the New Year's fiscal cliff package following the expiration of the 2008 farm bill at the end of September 2012. Both bills now move to their respective full chambers.
On Tuesday, the Senate committee approved a bill— voting in favor 15-5— very similar to legislation the entire Senate passed last year that provides $23 billion in savings over the next ten years, including a $4 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). However, the bill restores some mandatory funding to address the $3.2 billion backlog in water and wastewater programs critical to rural communities. The full Senate is expected to consider the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, S. 954, this week.
Late Wednesday, the House committee moved the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013,H.R. 1947, by a vote of 36-10. The House version cut SNAP by $20.5 billion. Also in the area of nutrition, the committee promoted healthy food alternatives by funding a Healthy Food Financing Initiative and establishing pilot projects for school districts in the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. NLC supported an amendment that would have provided $50 million for the water and wastewater backlog, but it failed by a vote of 22-23.
NLC continues to support a Farm Bill that preserves and supports investments in cities, towns and villages by encouraging rural development, improving access to healthy, local foods and protecting local natural resources.