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Senate Child Nutrition Bill Hotlined

Sep 19, 2016
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

This is an excerpt reprinted with permission from The Hagstrom Report, a news service providing original national and international agricultural news to its subscribers.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are asking all members of the Senate if they have any objections to moving the bill reauthorizing child nutrition programs forward, a person close to the situation has confirmed to The Hagstrom Report.

Under this “hotline” process, Senate offices have an opportunity to comment on whether senators approve of the bill or have objections. If there are no objections, the bill can pass under a unanimous consent process.

The 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, which included dramatic changes to school meals to make the food in schools healthier, expired at the end of the 2015 fiscal year, but it continues through appropriations. The bill also covers the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), summer meals and other smaller programs.

Roberts and Stabenow convinced the members of their committee to vote unanimously for the bill earlier this year, but without a final score from the Congressional Budget Office. Roberts and Stabenow promised to make the bill within the budget and used tweaks to various programs in order to pay for an increase in summer meals and that proved difficult.

Roberts and Stabenow have not released the bill with a final budget but are apparently showing that to their colleagues.

Whether the full Senate agrees with the bill should be clear early next week.

The House Education & the Workforce Committee has passed a very different version of the bill that includes changes to the school meals programs, but that bill has not proceeded to the House floor.

The School Nutrition Association, which represents school food service directors and the companies that make school foods, initially worked with the House Republicans to encourage changes. SNA has said it cannot support the final House bill because it would create a pilot program to turn school meals over to the states and would also cut a program that allows universal free meals in low income areas. SNA has said it supports the nutrition provisions of the Senate bill.

The Obama administration has come out in support of the Senate bill, but not the House bill. First Lady Michelle Obama championed the changes to the school meals programs in 2010. The administration is believed to favor the passage of a new five-year child nutrition bill before the Obamas leave the White House in January but not if it includes provisions in the House bill.

The Hagstrom Report covers Congressional hearings, markups and press conferences in Washington D.C., as well as national nutrition news and farm meetings throughout the United States. Subscribers to The Hagstrom Report receive a digital newsletter daily while Congress is in session and at other times as events require and news happens.

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