Lowey Opening Statement at Subcommittee Markup of 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Act
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate the efforts of Chairman Aderholt and Ranking Member Farr to put together this bill, which provides adequate funding for vital programs such as international food aid, nutritional assistance, and food safety.
I would like to compliment the Chairman for increasing funding for the McGovern-Dole food aid program by $13 million and restoring funding for Food for Peace. However, I would have preferred the bill also include the administration’s proposal to allow up to 25% of Title II resources to be made available in cash for emergencies to better respond to multiple, high-level crises around the world. This change alone would have allowed USAID to reach an estimated 2 million more people in chronically food insecure communities. The bill also doesn’t fund changes included in the recently passed Farm Bill that would make it easier for local and regional procurement of food products.
The bill provides sufficient funds for nutritional assistance programs such as WIC and SNAP and provides needed funds for food safety programs within FDA and the Food Safety Inspection Service.
While many of the funding decisions are appropriate, I have deep concerns about three controversial riders. First, bill language would make white potatoes eligible for purchase by WIC participants. This change violates the purpose of the WIC program, to only include foods based on documented nutritional deficiencies. According to the latest data from the Institute of Medicine, such a deficiency does not presently exist for white potatoes. When it comes to the WIC food package, we must follow the most current science and data available. The Department of Agriculture also maintains this commitment to scientific integrity and earlier this year committed to start its review of the WIC package a year early. I don’t see the need to revisit this issue once again.
I am also opposed to new language that limits the summer feeding program pilot only to rural areas. When we created this program, it was intended to serve children in both rural and urban areas in order to test alternative approaches for distributing aid to school children in the summer months. Excluding children from urban areas jeopardizes the effectiveness of the demonstration program and is also mean-spirited. Hunger isn’t bound by per capita population data, and children in urban areas shouldn’t be penalized because of where they live.
Lastly, this bill would begin to back away from much-needed efforts to make school meals healthier. According to the CDC, as of 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were obese. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and thus are at a much greater risk of developing heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and forms of cancer. While some may not agree with the scheduled changes -- especially children who would prefer pizza, hotdogs, and hamburgers on the menu -- such dire health risks necessitate coordinated federal action, and schools should support and teach healthy eating habits.
It is my sincere hope that we can improve these shortcomings as this bill moves forward.