On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture and related agencies for fiscal year 2020. The bill includes funding for three IDFA priorities: creating a milk incentive program within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), modernizing outdated food standards of identity, and continuation of the $1.5 million in funding for the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) research on new technologies that would help ice cream manufacturers reduce food waste. The bill provides discretionary funding of $23.1 billion, $58 million above the FY 2019 enacted level and $4.1 billion above the budget request.
The bill is expected to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote in the coming days, packaged along with smaller spending bills. Once approved, it is expected the Senate and House versions of the spending bill go to “conference” to work out the differences and arrive at a single piece of legislation.
Here are details on the IDFA priorities advanced in the Senate bill:
SNAP Incentive Program
The spending bill includes $1 million allocated for a SNAP milk incentive that would allow participants to purchase more milk with SNAP benefits. The incentive program was included in the 2018 Farm Bill, but funding for the program must be provided by annual appropriations bills. The program will help to determine the best tools for ensuring SNAP families get more of the nutritious milk they need.
Standards of Identity
The proposed bill protects $2 million to allow FDA to speed the process of modernizing several food standards of identity. IDFA has been a vocal and steadfast advocate for updating the standards of identity. The current standards are significantly outdated and stand in the way of using new technologies, new ingredients and novel processes for dairy foods. For example, IDFA has worked for a decade to see that FDA follows through on a proposed rule released in 2009 to revise the standard of identity for yogurt. Existing standards for nonfat yogurt, low-fat yogurt and yogurt are outdated and need modernization to reflect and accommodate new processing methods and technologies for food ingredients, as well as current consumer preferences and marketing trends toward healthier products. Additionally, IDFA is seeking regulatory discretion for using microfiltered milk in cheese making with the ingredient labeled as “milk” and is working to ensure the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance is updated to reflect current market needs, among several examples.
Ice Cream Research
Ice cream processors are eager to discover ways to use millions of pounds of ice cream co-product they must discard every year because no technologies exist to recover the fat, protein, carbohydrates and water that could be used. IDFA Members believe millions of dollars could be saved with the development of novel solutions and has been advocating, along with its ice cream members, for federal research to help find a solution. The bill continues $1.5 million in funding for the ARS research to develop technologies for recovering and using the co-products from ice cream processing. ARS is working closely with IDFA and IDFA Members to move the program forward.
For more information, contact Tony Eberhard, IDFA vice president of legislative affairs.