“Many of us are working to keep that same amount of funding going forward,” she said. “It is not anywhere near what is needed, but if we can keep some consistent amount that is available to schools, that will make a big difference,” she said.
The bill also invests $13 million in the newly authorized Healthy food Financing Initiative, which aims to provide to improved access to affordable, healthy foods in under served areas. The USDA also seeks to reform federal subsidies to crop insurance to generate savings of $14 billion over 10 years.
The federal budget proposal is sharing the spotlight with the implementation of the 2014 farm bill, said Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery law firm.
Regarding the farm bill, Quarles said the produce industry is interested in the speed at which the money for citrus in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative is determined. A committee must be formed to help determine where citrus research funds should be spent, he said.
“It is almost like you are creating a research and promotion order,” he said. The farm bill also mandates a study to consider the acceptance of “all forms” in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, including canned, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables.
Another key farm bill implementation question relates to new conservation compliance mandate for specialty crop insurances. The 2014 farm bill stipulated that specialty crop growers of annually tilled crops — not perennial crops like tree fruit — have to comply with conservation compliance regulations if they buy federal crop insurance.
Guenther said another closely-watched farm bill implementation issue is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Healthy Incentive Program, which invests $100 million over five years for grants to create incentives for fruits and vegetables purchased by SNAP recipients. Most of the programs in the 2014 farm bill were also in the 2008 farm bill, so Guenther said that makes the work at implementation not as intense as six years ago when the program were brand new.
“The programs are established, the USDA knows how they are run and there is a little bit of history to them,” he said.