For now, the Harvest Box lives again.
Bringing back a 2018 proposal to deliver Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to recipients in a “Harvest Box” was just one of several Trump Administration 2020 budget proposals that received immediate pushback from Democrats and anti-hunger groups.
President Trump’s 2020 Budget requests $20.8 billion for USDA, a $3.6 billion or 15% decrease from the 2019 estimate.
“The Budget continues the America’s Harvest Box proposal, allowing innovative partnerships with the private sector to combine the traditional SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer benefits with 100% American grown foods provided directly to households,” the budget proposal said. “The proposal ensures that Americans in need have access to a nutritious diet while significantly reducing the cost to taxpayers.”
According to the budget document, states will maintain the ability to provide choice to their participants, including “innovative approaches for the inclusion of fresh products.”
In a statement released March 11, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue did not address specific provisions in the Trump budget to cut the USDA budget.
“With our national debt soaring to over $22 trillion, we can no longer kick the can down the road,” Perdue said in a statement. “The time to act is now and USDA will actively do its part in reducing federal spending.”
Tracy Fox, president of Food, Nutrition and Policy Consultants, Washington, D.C., said the revived Harvest Box proposal isn’t likely to gain any traction.
“I think especially with the Democratically controlled House and a bunch of Republicans senators with tough re-election campaigns it’s not going to go anywhere,” she said March 11.
She said the Trump plans aims to cut $219 billion over ten years from the SNAP program, and close to half of those savings are apparently related to the harvest box concept.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said in a statement that the proposed 15% cut to USDA “is a road map for how to make things worse for farmers, ranchers and those who live in rural communities.”
He cited proposed Trump budget cuts that included:
- $26 billion in cuts to crop insurance;
- $9 billion in cuts to voluntary conservation programs;
- $5 billion in cuts to Section 32 programs that help purchase commodities in times of need;
- $8 billion in cuts to programs that help ranchers recover grazing lands hurt by drought;
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cuts; and
- Elimination of the Rural Energy for America and Rural Economic Development programs.
"This proposal tells us one of two things: either the White House doesn’t understand why these programs are important, or they don’t care,” Peterson said in the statement. “What’s more, all of these shortsighted cuts are second and third attempts to revisit policy proposals that were rejected in the farm bill negotiations.”
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said Trump’s budget cuts would also cut funding for the Food Safety Outreach Program in half. The cuts, according to the group, would hit just as the first wave of Food Safety Modernization Act inspections are beginning for the nation’s produce farmers.
“Although we support the President’s aims to increase agriculture research funding and make long-overdue reforms to federal crop insurance and commodity programs, we reject his proposal to cut billions in vital USDA programs and services that support our nation’s farmers and rural communities, and urge Congress to do the same,” NSAC senior policy specialist Wes King said in the release.