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Congress Approves Farm Bill Conference Report

On May 14, the House approved, 318-106, the conference report for the Food and Energy Security Act, also known as the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419). The Senate passed the conference report, 81-15, on May 15. The House approved H.R. 2419 in July 2007 (see The Source, 7/27/07); the Senate passed the bill in December 2007 (see The Source, 12/14/07).

The bill would authorize an additional $10.4 billion for nutrition programs and authorize the food stamp program through FY2012. In addition, the bill would change the name of the food stamp program to the Secure Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SSNAP), which reflects the program’s transition from paper food stamps to electronic benefits.

The measure also would expand household eligibility for SSNAP by increasing the minimum standard deduction from $134 per month to $144 per month; eliminating the cap on the amount of dependent care costs a household could deduct from its income, thus allowing recipients to deduct the full costs of dependent care; increasing the food stamp asset limits for individual recipients by linking assets to the Consumer Price Index (current law requires that food stamp recipients have countable assets of less than $3,500 or $4,500 for households with an elderly or disabled member); and excluding special combat pay from income when determining benefits.

The bill would provide $40 million in FY2008, $65 million in FY2009, $101 million in FY2010, $150 million in FY2011, and $150 million in FY2012 for the Child Nutrition and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Reauthorization Act (P.L. 108-265). The Department of Agriculture’s Snack Program would receive an additional $1.02 billion, while the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program would receive $84 million in mandatory funding for FY2009. The McGovern-Dole program also would be reauthorized through FY2012.

H.R. 2419 also would authorize a program to develop and implement strategies to reduce obesity among low-income Americans.

Although the two chambers passed the conference report, the House and Senate also passed, by voice vote and unanimous consent, respectively, a bill (H.R. 6051) to extend the Farm Bill until May 23, in anticipation of the president’s expected veto. The current extension (P.L. 107-171) expired on May 16.

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