WASHINGTON – Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted changes to its Fiscal Year 2017 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to ensure convenience stores and other small format retailers can continue participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The language was included in an uncontroversial manager’s amendment (which refers to an amendment containing a number of individual amendments to a piece of legislation) offered by Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS). The committee adopted it by voice vote.
Moran championed the language, which would prevent the Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) from using any funds to finalize specific parts of the agency’s problematic proposed rule that would push tens of thousands of c-stores out of SNAP. The manager’s amendment passed without any objection, sending a clear signal to FNS that members from both sides of the aisle recognize problems with the proposed rule that need to be corrected.
The language addresses several of the troublesome provisions in the FNS proposal. It would prevent FNS from using funds to:
- tie a retailer’s SNAP eligibility to their percentage of heated or cooked food sales;
- change the definition of staple food to exclude foods with multiple ingredients;
- expand the definition of accessory foods; and
- establish a minimum number of stocking requirements for each staple food requirement.
The House Appropriations Committee passed similar language last month that would preclude FNS from finalizing or implementing its rule beyond the requirements in the 2014 Farm Bill, which NACS supported.
Through extensive lobbying and grassroots efforts, NACS has raised the industry’s concerns with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress are weighing in with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the proposed rule and the negative impact it will have on their constituencies who depend on small format retailers. The Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to USDA, as did 161 members of the House of Representatives.
In its coverage of the Appropriations Committee vote, CQ/Roll Call reported that “convenience stores and similar non-grocery stores have proven to be effective lobbyists in getting lawmakers to push back against the USDA’s effort to broaden the kind of foods available to low-income people receiving food aid through SNAP. The store groups argue that the requirement for larger inventory is costly and impractical for many of them. The retailers say stores will close or leave the SNAP program, forcing low-income people to travel further for food. On Monday, more than 160 House members of both parties sent Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack a letter urging modifications to the rule.”
Although the ill-advised SNAP regulations are in trouble, the battle is not quite over. The House and Senate Fiscal Year 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bills now await consideration by the full House and Senate. If the bills pass their respective chambers, they will go to conference before a final bill will be sent to the president.