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Influence Feed: SNAP Judgments, 2019 Budget

23 February 2018

Zoetis

Stay current on the latest food and agriculture issues impacting your business with Influence Feed by Zoetis. Influence Feed tracks the top 1,500 most influential voices across all segments of food and agriculture to bring you insights in a convenient bi-weekly report.

Subscribe to Influence Feed to receive more content, in-depth analysis and links to source materials at www.InfluenceFeed.com. It’s free and offers content that is not available anywhere else.

1 2019 Budget — SNAP:

On Feb. 12, the Trump administration released (PDF) its budget proposal for fiscal year 2019. While many aspects of the budget riled political opponents, food and agriculture influencers focused on a proposal to replace (PDF) a portion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) benefits with a pre-selected box of non-perishable food items. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who reportedly suggested the idea, praised (PDF) the initiative as “a bold, innovative approach to providing nutritious food to people who need assistance feeding themselves and their families — and all of it is home grown by American farmers and producers.”

However, Politico reported stiff opposition from food banks, many of whom would be responsible for distribution. National Grocers Association responded: “SNAP is one of the most efficient federal social safety net programs because retailers are the linchpin of a successful public-private partnership. Fierce competition in the food retail industry drives consumer prices down.” Additionally, NPR quoted Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America: “[The Trump administration has] managed to propose nearly the impossible, taking over $200 billion worth of food from low-income Americans while increasing bureaucracy and reducing choices.” In light of the broad resistance, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told The New York Times, “This isn’t a serious proposal and is clearly meant to be a distraction.”

2 Farm Safety Nets:

Budget talks drew attention to several insurance and margin protection programs provided for farmers. On Feb. 9, Congress passed a two-year budget deal, which marked $3.5 billion for disaster spending in agriculture and added cotton and dairy industry provisions, which will boost prospects for those industries in the upcoming 2018 farm bill. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson stated, “Champions of cotton and dairy farmers need to be recognised for the significant amount of work carried out to ensure these farmers were not left behind. After years of falling prices, these provisions … will help stabilise the ground underneath their feet so that they can continue to carry on.”

Then, on Feb. 12, the White House presented its proposed budget (see above), which included cuts to conservation programs and crop insurance. The latter issue sparked blistering responses from powerful crop industry groups including National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and National Association of Wheat Growers. In a joint statement, Agriculture Committee chairmen Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) remarked, “The task at hand is to produce a Farm Bill for the benefit of our farmers, ranchers, consumers and other stakeholders. This budget … will not prevent us from doing that job.”

3 Rural Infrastructure:

On the same day as the budget was released, the White House presented its plan for infrastructure investment. The plan designated $50 billion for infrastructure development in rural areas, to be distributed primarily at the state level.

Agriculture industry groups, such as National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and National Grain and Feed Association, supported the measure for its ability to aid agricultural supply chains. Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell countered, “The administration pulled a sleight of hand to these communities by cutting a slew of USDA’s agriculture research and technical assistance programs that support farms, clean water and a safe food supply.”

4 CEO Turnover:

In the past few weeks, three notable leadership changes marked cultural shifts in different sectors of influence.

  • Following three years as CEO of Taco Bell, Brian Niccol will be the new CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill. This choice comes as Chipotle has struggled with rebuilding trust after health scares and increased competition in its sector. While Niccol looked forward to a bright future, Bloomberg argued, “If organics are going to keep growing, they’ll have to learn a thing or two from the industry they sought to disrupt.”
  • After 10 years, Pam Bailey will retire from the role of CEO at Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). Bailey will remain with the organization until her successor is found. In recent months, major companies including Tyson Foods, Cargill, Inc., and Nestlé USA have left the industry organization, amid debates regarding how to handle changing consumer preferences. Politico Morning Agriculture added, “Although plenty of people blamed Bailey for many of GMA’s troubles, there’s also a recognition that food companies continue to disagree over a range of contentious federal policy issues like GMO labeling and the contents of the new Nutrition Facts labels.”
  • Kitty Block stepped in as acting president and CEO of HSUS. This followed the public departure of her predecessor, Wayne Pacelle, amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Block promised transparency and respect, and Drovers reported, “Block is well-connected in Washington and internationally and poised to lead HSUS into a new wave of advocacy.”

5 FARM Emissions:

On Feb. 13, Agriculture Committee Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) co-sponsored the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, which would exempt livestock and poultry farming operations from having to report air emissions from waste under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Praise came from a broad range of livestock groups, including National Pork Producers Council, National Milk Producers Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and American Farm Bureau Federation. In a joint statement, the National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and United Egg Producers applauded the move: “This is significant breakthrough legislation restoring CERCLA reporting to its intended purpose, a united legislative effort that has been nearly 15 years in the making … the bill demonstrates strong support from both Republicans and Democrats.”

 

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