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Food Stamp Funding Cuts, School Meals, Relationship Between USDA and Farmers Key Topics at Hearing

Food stamp funding cuts, school meals, and the relationship between USDA and farmers were key topics at House hearing. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was hit with a flurry of policy-related questions during a hearing March 14 by the House Ag Appropriations Subcommittee (link to transcript). Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) appeared skeptical when Vilsack told him that by law, his agency could not consider temporary waivers for school meal operators who want more time to meet new nutrition rules for school breakfasts and snack foods that these providers say are costly. Aderholt included report language in the Fiscal 2014 omnibus spending bill, which signals congressional interest but is not binding, because of complaints he received from school meal operators. The School Nutrition Association, which represents school meal providers and their suppliers, backs the waiver language. Vilsack said only 10 percent of school meal providers seem to be struggling and that USDA would work with them. However, he said the underlying law on which the national school lunch program is based does not allow waivers if it will increase costs to the federal government, or affect nutritional standards or the sale of competitive or snack foods in schools.

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