The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance said in a recent release that the 2014 farm bill gives a 55% increase, compared with the 2008 farm bill, to funding levels for specialty crop initiatives and programs.
One fairly minor provision in the farm bill that is the Healthy Incentives Program, a program to establish “incentives grants” for projects that incentivize SNAP participants to buy fruits and vegetables.
The purpose of the incentive money is to increase the purchases of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers. The USDA will give priority to participants - most likely farmers’ markets but also open to community supported agriculture and food retailers - who provide locally or regionally produced fruits and vegetables, are located in under served communities and use direct to consumer marketing.
There is much to like about the program, which is officially called “food insecurity nutrition incentive” in the farm bill language. But the incentive program only allows for a maximum of a 50% federal share of the incentive, Still, mandatory funding at $35 million for fiscal year 2014 isn’t peanuts.
But one red flag is this; the farm bill language says that grants made available under the program shall not be used to carry out any project that limits the use of benefits under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 or any other Federal nutrition law.
In other words, use these funds to encourage SNAP recipients to eat more fruits and vegetables, but don’t even think about restricting sales of candy or pop.
Why can’t Congress get serious about improving the diets of SNAP recipients?
Should we give America a raise?
Of course “we” deserve it, but is the best way forward to raise the minimum wage? I asked that question to the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group on LinkedIn, and we have quite a variety of opinion. Check out the discussion and poll here.