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Farm Bill signed into law; Hunger Action Day in WA

Federal: 

We have been hearing about and planning for the new Farm Bill for many years now and the door has officially closed on negotiations. With “yes” votes from Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, the Senate voted 68-32 to pass the Farm Bill and the bill was signed into law by President Obama. If you remember SNAP was already cut by $11 billion beginning last November. As a result of this Farm Bill, Washington and 15 other states will face changes in SNAP that comprise the total $8.6 billion additional cut from SNAP over the next 10 years.

For Washington, more than a quarter of a million households (232,000) on average will lose $90 per month in food stamp benefits. DSHS estimates the SNAP benefit loss will be $70 million. Advocates are working with DSHS to determine exactly how and when changes will go into effect for clients in the coming weeks and months; USDA is still analyzing the final bill language in order to develop clear guidance to states on implementation.

There were some funding increases in the Farm Bill for a few important anti-hunger and nutrition programs. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) was increased by $205 million. Unfortunately, last week WSDA stated Washington will not have any TEFAP increase in the coming year, based on how these funds are allocated to states. There will be first-time federal grants phased in for “double bucks” programs that provide healthy food incentives for SNAP shoppers at farmers markets and grocery stores. Additionally, Healthy Food Financing Initiatives got additional funds aimed at increasing access to healthy food in retail environments.

Despite these new funding opportunities, the Farm Bill’s cuts to SNAP – on top of the SNAP cuts in November – mean Washingtonians will have a much harder time making it through the month with enough food, and local food banks won’t have additional federal support to help meet client needs.

State:

Last week 200 advocates came to Olympia for the annual Hunger Action Day, meeting with lawmakers to talk about hunger and our priorities to address it this session. Representative Reykdal (22nd) was inspiring as he addressed advocates, telling his story of growing up with food stamps about how important it is to talk about hunger and its solutions to his colleagues in the legislature.

Attendees learned current details about our priorities and what’s been happening this session so they were well prepared for meetings with their lawmakers. Members of the House and Senate – as well as hundreds of community organizations and individuals - have signed on to various letters of support for our priorities: adding funding to Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP); restoring equity in State Food Assistance to full benefit levels; and, adding funds to the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs for WIC and Seniors. Bills were introduced in both the House and Senate to require high-poverty schools to serve “Breakfast After the Bell” to increase participation in school breakfast.

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