ALEXANDRIA, Va. - On Friday, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee officially unveiled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have spent months crafting the legislation in a way that will ensure bipartisan support in committee and on the Senate floor.
The bill reauthorizes programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Senate Farm Bill makes only slight changes to SNAP and stays away from controversial issues such as work requirements and purchase restrictions.
More than 119,000 convenience store retailers participate in SNAP, which is why NACS closely follows the Farm Bill process and advocates for policies that support the vital access to food that small-format retailers provide in the communities they serve. Within the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill, there are several provisions NACS is following that would have an impact on retailers. Specifically, the bill calls for:
- The prohibition of processing fees, interchange fees and routing fees from all EBT transactions. This provision is similar to language in the House version of the bill.
- A study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the current EBT payments system, participants and providers to examine network outages and other system issues. The legislation gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to write a regulation based on the study results.
- A retailer incentives program. USDA is instructed to create an approval process for retailers seeking to offer incentives for SNAP purchases of foods that are within the dietary guidelines.
The bill currently is scheduled to be considered by members of the Senate Agriculture Committee in an official markup on Wednesday and is expected to pass with bipartisan support. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated his plans on Friday to bring the Farm Bill to the Senate floor for a vote around July 4.
The House of Representatives has until June 22 to vote again on its version of the Farm Bill, which failed to pass last month because of a related dispute on immigration legislation. Stay tuned to NACS Daily for more updates on the Farm Bill process.