Congress Strips Harmful SNAP Language in Agriculture Appropriations Bill

The bill text would have allowed pilot states to restrict SNAP purchase to only “nutrient dense” foods.

March 06, 2024

On Sunday, Congress released the text of the final FY2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill to be voted on this week, alongside other spending bills to fund a slew of agencies including the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Energy, Commerce, and Justice. In a win for SNAP families and retailers, harmful language that NACS strongly opposed was stripped from the final version of the bill. That language would have created a pilot program allowing states to restrict SNAP purchases to “nutrient dense foods and beverages in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

The original text of the Agriculture Appropriations bill would have prohibited SNAP families in pilot states from purchasing common household items, such as whole or 2% milk, white bread, ham and other deli meats, as well as most canned goods. Not only would these limitations make it very difficult for people to feed families with young children, but it would have been impossible for the majority of convenience stores to participate in this type of pilot meaning that they could not accept SNAP in those states.

“With more than 100,000 locations around the country participating in SNAP, convenience stores play a critical role in the Program providing access to food to Americans who need it most in rural and urban communities. Ninety percent of Americans live within 10 minutes of a convenience store. If these stores were unable to participate in SNAP, it would have ultimately hurt the families who rely the most on these access points to pick up key staple items,” said Anna Blom, NACS Director of Government Relations. “By stripping this harmful language from the final bill, Congress has shown their commitment to SNAP in keeping the program flexible for the families that need it most and easy for retailers to serve their communities.”

In February, NACS joined a widespread coalition of hunger groups, businesses, and associations in opposition to the bill’s language in a letter to Congress, which stated that the pilot would inhibit the ability and dignity of individuals to choose the groceries they feel are best for their families and would make the program more burdensome for retailers.

“Dividing SNAP food items into a complex system of variable, government-administered lists from among the 40,000 items in a grocery store would be confusing to both customers and retailers and would ultimately increase the cost of administering the program for retailers that accept SNAP benefits. This would particularly burden smaller retailers in rural and urban markets,” the letter said.