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Agriculture Improvement Act - 2018 Updates

Updates are related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) & SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed) in the Farm Bill.

Before you dive into these updates, understand these terms and background behind them. . .




  • It’s still unclear whether Congress will complete the farm bill sooner than later. There were indications that a House and Senate agreement would be reached by Thanksgiving, but that did not materialize. Now they’re stating the possibility of releasing it next week. Some don’t think it will be released until next year. Sources say, as it stands, the bill is quiet on the issue of SNAP work rules, leaving it to US Department of Agriculture to move forward with plans to make it harder for states to get waivers from the existing work rules for able-bodied adults without dependents. The Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, recommends that the President sign the upcoming farm bill as it is, and congressional negotiators agreed. 
  • Word is that the new farm bill is close to completion. It could potentially provide $867 billion of funding to food and agriculture programs, such as SNAP, WIC, and food banks. 
  • The Environmental Working Group and the Food Resource and Action Center created their own farm bill resource center. There, you can get primers, recent legislation, updates and more.  
  • A number of temporary spending bills will expire on December 7, including funding for the US Department of Agriculture, and various decisions on farm bill provisions. In the FY 2019 Agriculture Spending Bill (one of those temporary spending bills) will need a full-year appropriation for FY 2019. A letter was sent by various organizations and agencies to the House and Senate agriculture appropriations leaders to urge them to stop the attempt of the US Department of Agriculture from moving the headquarters of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Countering that point, Agriculture Secretary Perdue sent this letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee. He defends his position that the headquarters should move. The US Department of Agriculture received 136 expressions of interest from parties in 35 states wanting to become the new homes of the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  
  • Most frequently, SNAP participants are kept out of the workforce because of health conditions.
  • This PLOS Medicine study aimed to estimate the health impact, program and healthcare costs, and cost effectiveness of food incentives, disincentives, or restrictions in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) . Requiring healthier food selection for SNAP could pay off in the long run. This study estimated that $6.77 billion to $41.93 billion could be saved in healthcare costs over the model cohort's lifetime. At the same time, up to 940,000 cardiovascular events and 146,600 diabetes cases could be prevented. An article on the matter can be found here.
  • Many grass root groups - the Environmental Working Group, Food Policy Action, Food Research & Action Center, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council and Union of Concerned Scientists share their opinion on the progression of the farm bill. They support a bill closer to the Senate farm bill vs. the House’s bill which was passed without any democratic support.  
  • The Trump administration’s budget proposal next year will again look to replace some Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits with boxes of produce and shelf-stable food. Perdue hopes that Congress would at least allow a Harvest Box pilot project.


  • The Farm Bill Conference committee met on September 5 to work on finalizing the Farm Bill. You can watch the meeting here. Though they were hopeful to pass it by September 30, passage isn’t expected until December.
  • The Public Charge Rule under this administration states that immigrants who relied on the government assistance (like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) will face challenges when obtaining a visa or green card. This will force immigrants to choose between government assistance and permanent residence. A detailed description of this rule can be found here and the actual event here.
  • The former Secretary of Agriculture supports a bipartisan Farm Bill with support for healthier food choices for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and nutrition education.
  • According to maps from the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s maps, the top ten poorest states are the hungriest.
  • What’s the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for youth in the Foster Care system?
  • Food insecurity persists even as the economy strengthens. See the visuals.  



  • What’s in a Farm Bill costing close to $867 billion? How does it impact all of us? Why should we care? Watch this video here . A primer can also be downloaded here. Renewal of the 2018 Farm Bill is in motion. To understand the process this bill will go through, click here (30 seconds-10:13 minutes). Here is how Farm Bill policy is all going down right now:
    • In line with the typical processes, the House Appropriations Committee adopted a 2019 spending bill for agriculture and nutrition programs with nutrition section beginning on page 53. It was a pretty bipartisan matter. SNAP-Ed is currently funded at $428 million. The FY 2018 allocation was $421 million. 

      However, the House then voted and could not pass a farm bill draft (loss of 193-213). The draft included cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), inclusion of work requirements for SNAP participants, and cuts  to various agriculture subsidies. Ultimately, enough lawmakers opposed the measure because they wanted to vote on an immigration bill first. The farm bill will be brought to the House again in late June

      The Congressional Research Service draws up a comparison of the Farm Bill law right now and how the House Bill would change it. It’s a 108 page analysis meant for Congress.

      In May, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously adopted a fiscal year 2019, bipartisan Agriculture Appropriations Bill. Funding covers anticipated demand for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, WIC, and school meals programs. Find the bill and the report with nutrition provisions beginning on page 79. The markup and passage of the Senate bill is projected to be early this month. Once on the Senate floor it will probably undergo changes. 

      The Food Trust, supported by the National SNAP-Ed Strategy Group, recently submitted a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee, on behalf of members of the National SNAP-Ed Strategy Group. The letter addresses the section of the bill focused on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education objectives. Supporters of this letter included SNAP-Ed implementing agencies, the grocery industry, public health professionals, and advocates from across the country.

      More on the Farm Bill can be found within these articles:


  • This report from the Food Research and Action Center shares why the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) works. 
  • The Food Research and Action Center reveals a wide variety of political viewpoints from professionals involved in anti-hunger issues from afterschool meals to hungry seniors through their “FRAC Chats”. You can review them here
  • The Urban Institute shared their analysis focused on the adequacy of SNAP benefits today. The results show they don’t cover the cost of a meal. 
  • The Congressional Research Service has issued this report for members of Congress focused on numerous food assistance programs funded by the federal government and their impact. 
  • The US Department of Agriculture’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey outlines possible influences on what foods Americans purchase at all income levels. The entire report can be found here and a two-page summary is here
  • More than 1000 research articles about the positive impact of food assistance  
  • The US Department of Agriculture released a report about the success of 2017 food assistance programs. 
  • The Food Research and Action Center, “State of the States: Profiles of Hunger, Poverty, and Federal Nutrition Programs.” Compare hunger, poverty and food federal nutrition program use in this table.
  • Children’s HealthWatch, Feeding America, and Food Research and Action Center addressed ideas for solving food insecurity in a health care setting. 
  • Healthier choices through incentives programs work. “…the Farmers Market Coalition, a Pennsylvania-based advocacy group, found that in 2016, around the country, households on SNAP that were enrolled in the program consumed 16 million to 32 million additional servings of fruits and vegetables. The report found the program generated an estimated $14.3 million in economic activity for participating communities.” 
  • Double up Your Food Bucks is a program that provides incentives for SNAP recipients to go to farmers markets and purchase healthier foods. Though this program isn’t running statewide, Philadelphia is a nationwide leader in the program. 
  • The US Secretary of Agriculture visited Penn State, the Central PA Food Bank, and Gettysburg to discuss agricultural and anti-hunger policy within the Farm Bill.
  • PA SNAP-Ed programs are highlighted at the US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service’s SNAP-Ed Success Stories website. Click on the stories under our state and the 24 other participating states.  
  • Did you know the person in charge of creating the nutrition title of the House Farm Bill came to visit the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank? More here.  
  • The US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service study found that households receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) acquire about the same calories as non-SNAP households. They do spend fewer food dollars while relying more on school meals and food from family and friends. 
  • What’s the nutritional quality of the SNAP Harvest Box proposed by this administration?  
  • Immigrants are fearful of participating in the government’s supplemental nutrition programs because they worry that their ability to attain citizenship might be hindered.  The House shares their version of the Farm Bill which yields a lot of commentary from both sides. Farm support seems to be boosted. Alternatively, Food Assistance Program money is cut.
    • The full committee met to mark the initial Farm Bill draft today. A video here (The part of the bill that addresses nutrition can be found at 2:42-3:17 hours,).
    • A list of articles supporting the House’s Agriculture bill: 
    • Here is an article describing an alternative point of view. 
    • Here is the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities takes a different stance.  
    • A list of articles supporting the anti-hunger advocates thoughts. 
    • Here is one way you can contact your congressman about how you see this bill unfolding. 
    • This federal bill would create a National Accuracy Clearinghouse to closely look out for fraud in supplemental nutrition programs. 
  • Alaska will prohibit their state issuer of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits from requesting, accepting, or attempting to renew or extend a waiver of work requirements or time limits for an able-bodied adult without dependents in the SNAP program and state medical assistance program. 
  • Alabama’s bill allows the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to be drug tested. If someone tests positive twice, they would be ineligible for SNAP benefits. A drug-abusing parent of a dependent child can find a third party to receive the benefits for their dependent. 
  • Iowa’s bill would require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to implement an eligibility verification system for public assistance programs; for instance, residency in the state for at least one year prior to submission of the assistance application will be required. This bill also prohibits DHS from applying for, accepting, or renewing any waiver of the work requirements applicable to an individual to be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 
  • Illinois will have penalties for any person who possesses, for an unlawful purpose, another person's Electronic Benefit Transfer card (EBT) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Another bill would require new EBT cards to include the name and photo of the primary (and potentially a secondary) cardholder. The bill would also provide a 3-month time limit or work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependent children who apply for or receive benefits under SNAP.
  • Illinois’ Healthy Food Program Development Act would improve access to healthier foods through collaboration state government programs, a collection of data on insufficient access to grocery stores, and assistance to smaller grocery retailers. 
  • Illinois is on a roll! This bill would give locations with food desert eligibility the ability to apply for grants (not exceeding $500,000) from the Healthy Local Food Incentives Fund. 
  • Michigan’s bill would add additional work and/or education requirements, in addition to federal work requirements, when determining eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 
  • So that SNAP recipients don’t lose their benefits, New Jersey will work to ensure availability of job training or similar activities. 
  • The Jersey bill would require expedited SNAP Benefits for: 1) a household with a monthly income less than $150, 2) an eligible migrant or seasonal farm worker, or 3) an eligible household with combined monthly gross income and liquid resources that are less than the monthly rent or mortgage payment plus utility expenses of the household.