Child nutrition bill delayed as talks continue

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2015 - The Senate Agriculture Committee has delayed action on a child nutrition bill with negotiations still continuing.

The committee was scheduled to mark up a replacement of the expiring Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 on Thursday but will instead turn to three less controversial bills, including measures to re-authorize mandatory price reporting and grain inspection standards. 

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The chairman of the committee, Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told Agri-Pulse late last week that he still didn't have a deal with the panel's ranking Democrat, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, on the reauthorization of child nutrition programs. 

He said that key policy issues still needed to be resolved included the school meal standards for sodium and whole grains, as well as the extra funding that would be needed to obtain Democratic support. 

“I am continuing negotiations with Ranking Member Stabenow to get a bipartisan, budget-neutral agreement to move forward with child nutrition reauthorization. We're nearly at the finish line,” Roberts said in a statement Monday.

“My goals remain the same - craft a reauthorization package that is bipartisan, increases efficiency and effectiveness, has flexibility so all schools may achieve success in their meal programs, and addresses program integrity, high error rates, and improper payments within the programs.”

The School Nutrition Association, which has been pushing for some relief from the new school meal requirements, sent a letter to Roberts and Stabenow saying the group wanted increased funding and “commonsense flexibility” within the new standards. 

“School nutrition professionals aren't interested in reversing progress. We support increasing consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lowering sodium and following calorie and fat limits to combat childhood obesity,” the group said. 

The letter also was sent to leaders of the House Education and Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue there. 

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act expires Sept. 30.

The House already has passed bills to re-authorize the price reporting system, grain standards and the National Forest Foundation Act. Senate Agriculture approved its own version of the grain standards bill in May, but the panel will consider a new version that the House will support. 

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