by Marion Nestle
Jan 14 2014

Congress releases its draft budget bill (sigh)

In the strange way the U.S. government works, Congress has produced the “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014,” which authorizes payments for government services, including those related to agriculture.

This is not the farm bill.  It’s what Congress decides taxpayers will pay for in the farm bill as well as bills that cover other programs run by USDA.

The House summary of agriculture appropriations is a lot easier to read than the bill itself, although it contains its share of double speak.  Try this:

WIC – This program provides supplemental nutritional foods needed by pregnant and nursing mothers, babies and young children. The bill provides full funding for WIC at $6.7 billion – $153 million below the fiscal year 2013 enacted level…This level will ensure all eligible participants will be served.

Can someone please explain to me how a cut of $153 million will ensure service to everyone who is eligible?  WIC is not an entitlement; eligible people cannot be served once the money runs out.

The bill does provide full spending—$82.2 billion—for SNAP, but only because it has to.  SNAP is an entitlement and spending for it is mandatory.  Unless, of course, Congress ever passes the farm bill, which currently contains a $9 billion proposed cut.

And here’s more double speak.  “The legislation includes several provisions to reduce spending and increase oversight of taxpayer dollars.”  How?  By authorizing spending for:

  • Oversight and monitoring requirements for the WIC program, including a directive for the Secretary of Agriculture to increase oversight of vendors to help rein in food costs;
  • A provision requiring USDA to submit a plan for reducing high error rates and improper payments in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs;
  • Requirements for the Secretary of Agriculture to help weed out and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in the SNAP program – including a directive to ban fraudulent vendors, and a prohibition on advertisements or outreach with foreign governments.

And why does the FDA’s budget still get decided by committees dealing with agricultural appropriations?

The FDA is a public health agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, which is funded by entirely different committees which you might think understand its mission a lot better than committees fussing about legislation that

restricts the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from implementing certain regulations that would allow harmful government interference in the private market for the livestock and poultry industry.

I can hardly wait to see what the farm bill will look like.

  • jym

    Marion, I work for a local health department and we have struggled for over 6 months to meet with even 97% of WIC-eligible clients. Our caseload continues to decline, despite efforts we have put in place to ease the process (going to the hospital to enroll newborns, making reminder phone calls, combining WIC visits with other clinic appointments, etc). Perhaps Congress is counting on a continued decline in caseload?

  • laurietrue

    The FY 2014 omnibus spending bill appropriates adequate
    funding to WIC, it is not a cut. WIC caseloads have declined in the last few
    years as the economy recovers. Lower birthrates and less immigration are major
    contributing factors. So less funding is needed.

    When are you going to write about the WIC potato fiasco? This is such a classic
    case of the influence of money and Big Food lobbying on one of the last
    bastions of science-based policymaking! As you say to us, “Get busy!”

    Read Bob Greenstein’s piece:

  • Pingback: Congress releases its draft budget bill (sigh) | CookingPlanet()

  • sapnawebspy

    I have read your past and i really like the way you write your post.the food product supply.This is not the farm bill.

  • elinaalbert91

    Nice post…Here is a delicious and healthy to make a choice School Cafeteria, Tex-Mex Box Lunch and Greek Box Lunch with in complete range for food.

  • Susan Salisbury

    WICS is an extraordinarily expensive and wasteful program that is the epitome of paid government busybodies. The underlying premise is that poor people don’t know what foods to feed their families so the government, in the form of counsellors, will tell them what sort of food they should be buying. It supports a high carbohydrate low fat diet. It tells people whose children are of normal weight that their children are fat based on average weight for age charts that ignore the height of the child and it promotes very high sugar baby formulas in place of homemade formulas. The chief beneficiaries of this program, like the school lunch program, are the people who run the program. Both programs should be rolled into the food stamp program.