Assistance to rice producers and updates to summer meal program among priorities included in final bill
WASHINGTON—The year-end spending bill includes important agriculture and nutrition provisions that U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, helped author and secure.
“I am pleased that we came together to close the loop on several outstanding ag and nutrition concerns. We were able to secure relief for rice producers who have had a difficult year in the wake of soaring input costs which, as documented by two separate studies out of Texas A&M University, had a disproportionate impact on rice producers. Additionally, I am particularly pleased to see the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, was included, as well as a long overdue modernization of our summer meals program based on ideas I have championed for years,” Boozman said.
Boozman worked with Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and their counterparts in the House of Representatives to ensure the year-end deal included:
Assistance to Rice Producers: Provides $250 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make a one-time payment to U.S. rice producers who planted rice in 2022. A recent study conducted by Texas A&M University that looked specifically at the increase in fertilizer prices across an array of commodities, found rice farms would be hit hardest by rising costs. A second study conducted by the university focused solely on the impact of rising input costs found that two thirds of the rice farms they monitor will fail to breakeven in 2022.
Summer Meals Program Modernization: Updates the summer food service program to permanently allow states to provide non-congregate meals and summer electronic benefit (EBT) options nationwide to eligible children in addition to meals provided at congregate feeding sites. Non-congregate meals, such as grab-and-go or home delivery, would be provided in rural areas to eligible children, and summer EBT benefits would be capped at $40 per child per month. This provision is fully offset and based largely on the Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act, which Boozman authored and introduced earlier this Congress.
Growing Climate Solutions Act: Incorporates updated language from the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which directs USDA to establish a program to register entities that provide technical assistance and verification for farmers, ranchers and foresters who participate in voluntary carbon markets with the goal of providing information and confidence to producers.
Pandemic Assistance to Cotton Merchandisers: Provides $100 million for USDA to make payments to merchandisers of cotton that endured significant financial losses caused by pandemic-related supply chain challenges. Cotton merchandisers serve as the link between producers and textile mills. Those that purchased cotton from U.S. producers, or marketed cotton on their behalf, and experienced economic losses during the pandemic would qualify for this relief.
Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA 5) Reauthorization: Reauthorizes pesticide registration and review process user-fee programs administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and increases registration and maintenance fees to support a more predictable regulatory process, create additional process improvements, and provide resources for safety, training, bilingual labeling, and other services to advance the safe and effective use of pesticides.
Pesticide Registration Review Deadline Extension: Extends deadline for EPA to complete registration review decisions for all pesticide products registered as of October 1, 2007. EPA is facing a significant backlog of pesticide registrations due to a variety of factors over the past several years, which raises potential implications for continued access to numerous crop protection tools. The agency will be allowed to continue its registration review work through October 1, 2026 as a result of this extension.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) EBT Skimming Regulations and Reimbursement: Requires USDA to coordinate with relevant agencies and stakeholders to investigate reports of stolen SNAP benefits through card skimming, cloning and other similar fraudulent methods. This provision aims to identify the extent of the problem, develop methods to prevent fraud and improve security measures, and provide replacement of benefits stolen through these fraudulent actions.
Livestock Mandatory Reporting Extension (LMR) Extension: Extends livestock mandatory reporting requirements until September 30, 2023. LMR requires meat packers and importers to report the prices they pay for cattle, hogs, and sheep purchased for slaughter and prices received for meats derived from such species to USDA who then publishes daily, weekly, and monthly public reports detailing these transactions.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Whistleblower Program Extension: Enables CFTC to continue payment of salaries, customer education initiatives and non-awards expenses related to the whistleblower program to ensure it can continue to function even when awards obligated to whistleblowers exceed the program fund’s balance at the time of distribution.