June 19, 2012
Earlier today the House Appropriations Committee marked up and passed the FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. No amendments to WIC’s funding allocation were made. This bill still funds WIC at $6.922 billion in FY 2013, which is still $119 million short of the President’s budget request but may be enough to meet caseload if food costs and participation stabilizes. The bill also still provides no set asides for breastfeeding peer counselors, MIS/EBT, or Infrastructure, all of which the Senate bill provided in addition to funding WIC at the level of the President’s budget request of $7.041 billion.
As expected Rep. Mike Simpson, R-ID, offered an amendment that would interfere with the science of determining foods for the WIC food packages by dictating that USDA include white potatoes in the WIC food packages. The language of his amendment goes further to state that the USDA cannot “exclude or restrict the eligibility of any variety of fresh, whole, or cut vegetables, except for vegetables with added sugars, fats, or oils, from being provided as supplemental foods under the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children under section 17 of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 8 U.S.C. 1786).” Unfortunately, the amendment passed by a voice vote in Committee, and marks the first time ever that Congress has interfered with the science of the WIC food packages. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, and Rep. Sam Farr, D-CA, provided strong opposing arguments to the amendment. Rep. Rosa DeLauro read from and submitted the NWA coalition partner statement for the record, so that it would be recorded that the Committee voted in favor of the amendment despite opposition from the medical, nutrition, and public health communities. Click here to view the statement.
In the 38 years since the WIC program began, Congress has never interfered with selecting which foods the WIC program should provide, until today. Instead, Congress delegated the determination of the WIC food packages to experts in the field of nutritional science and medicine. In an effort that took over seven years to complete, USDA undertook a rigorous, science-based process to evaluate what changes should be made to the WIC food packages with the help of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Among the IOM’s 2005 recommendations to USDA was to provide vouchers that would enable WIC participants to purchase a variety of fruits and vegetables. The IOM did not include white potatoes as one of the vegetables that WIC participants could purchase through the program because white potatoes are the most widely consumed vegetable and WIC participants already consume them in recommended amounts. WIC participants' diets do not need to be supplemented with additional potatoes. USDA’s interim final regulations, published in December 2007, closely adhere to the IOM recommendations and are strongly supported by nutrition and health experts.
The bill will now move to the House floor for debate and amendment.