Luján Introduces Nutrition Legislative Package During Farm Bill Negotiations
Washington, D.C. – As Farm Bill negotiations continue, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) announced the introduction of a package of agriculture related bills that would improve nutrition access for New Mexico Pueblos and Tribal Nations, seniors, and low-income families. This package also includes legislation that would protect retailers from processing fees and modernization costs, and legislation that directs health care professionals to help patients apply for SNAP when a change in nutrition is an important part of their care. Lastly, this package features the SHOPP Act, bipartisan legislation that expands the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) to require the consideration of grant applications or projects that promote or incentivize frozen fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.
“As negotiations for the Farm Bill continue, I’m fighting for the inclusion of this package that will expand nutrition access in New Mexico and make sure healthy options are available for working families, seniors, and all those on Tribal lands,” said Luján, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This package also includes my legislation to protect community and family-owned grocers by closing a loophole that would allow retailers to be charged a processing fee on SNAP transactions. Critically, it also includes my bill that allows health care workers to work with patients to apply for SNAP benefits if a change in diet is necessary for their health.”
Luján continued, “As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I’m focused on making sure these bills are included in the Farm Bill to ensure it delivers for New Mexico. These conversations have long been dominated by states out east, and I’m making sure New Mexico voices are heard and our agricultural needs are met.”
Tribal Nutrition Flexibility Act: This language would make the following cost-neutral changes to the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations FDPIR:
- Grants USDA the authority to allow FDPIR sites to provide non-domestically sourced produce in emergency situations;
- Defines food produced by Tribes with boundary lines spanning international borders as products of the United States;
- Gives USDA the authority to distribute traditional and culturally appropriate foods on a regional basis, in addition to a national basis;
- Gives USDA broad waiver authority to support better FDPIR administration; and,
- Enable Indian Tribal Organizations to directly source herbs and spices as part of nutrition education opportunities.
Tribal Nutrition Program Administration Act: This language changes the amount that USDA must contribute towards administrative and distribution costs under the FDPIR program. These changes would eliminate the need for Tribes to seek waivers and for USDA to process these waivers, reducing administrative burdens and expanding FDPIR access.
The Nutrition Administration Assistance Act: This legislation creates grants for administration of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Emergency Food Assistance program, and the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. The text authorizes the appropriation of $1 million for each of the fiscal years 2024-2028, allocated in the following way:
- 70 percent of funds to administer the Commodity Supplemental Food Program;
- 20 percent of funds to administer the Emergency Food Assistance Program; and,
- 10 percent of funds to administer the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.
The Ensuring Fee-Free Benefit Transactions (EBT) Act: From the inception of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), stores have been protected from transaction fees that would make it harder for them to accept SNAP benefits. However, the 2014 Farm Bill text inadvertently left retailers open to new processing fees. In 2018, this loophole was temporarily closed until 2023. The EBT Act addresses this loophole in the following ways:
- Permanently prohibits EBT processing fees;
- Protects retailers from modernization costs above and beyond normal commercial costs;
- Ensures that state EBT contracts require fraud protection to prevent skimming and cover the cost of supporting the EBT payment infrastructure; and,
- Requires state agencies to review payment technology during each new contracting period and update the technology to reflect commercial standards.
Nurses Utilizing Resources for SNAP Education (NURSE) Act: This legislation directs USDA to develop resources for healthcare professionals to provide their patients information about how to apply for SNAP when a change in nutrition is an important part of their care.
Supporting All Healthy Options When Purchasing Produce (SHOPP) Act: The SHOPP Act would amend GusNIP’s priorities in several ways. This legislation:
- Modifies the list of GusNIP priorities by adding frozen produce as a priority in addition to fresh; and,
- Allows USDA to include frozen fruits, vegetables and legumes in the Prescription Produce Program. The program currently allows only fresh fruits and vegetables.