July 2, 2010
On Thursday, July 1, the full House Education and Labor Committee held its first hearing on Chairman George Miller’s (D-CA) Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act. Throughout the hearing endorsements for the Farm to School program were loud and clear, both from Committee members and from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The Miller bill includes $50 million in mandatory funding for the Farm to School competitive grants program.
Secretary Vilsack began his testimony with an impassioned plea for Congress to move child nutrition legislation quickly, stating that “nothing is more important than getting this done this year.” While there was bipartisan agreement that the legislation authorizing the school meals programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a priority, some Representatives have balked at the $8 billion price tag for the bill.
Only a few offsets have been identified yet. There is only one likely offset under the jurisdiction of the Education and Labor Committee, a change to the bonus commodity program that will yield about $1 billion in savings. Hence, once the bill is reported out of Committee, the leaders will then need to go shopping for offsets from other committees, most likely including the Ways and Means Committee and the Agriculture Committee, before the bill can be brought to the floor.
The bill may be marked up in Education and Labor as soon as the week of July 12. That quick movement to move the bill out of Committee is very welcome given the additional time it will take to get offsets lined up and the bill ready for floor action.