National WIC Association

Agriculture Chair Roberts: Child Nutrition Bill is Dead

December 7, 2016

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) said yesterday afternoon that efforts to complete the bill to reauthorize child nutrition programs have come to an end.

This means that NWA successes included in the Senate bill to provide WIC to six, two year certifications for infants, a reasonable, common sense review of Medicaid Adjunctive Eligibility, among other priorities have, for the time being, been dashed. Senate Agriculture Committee leaders have said that they will renew efforts in the 115th Congress to move child nutrition through the Committee and the Senate floor, although with a new presidential administration and with the Farm Bill reauthorization process beginning in 2017, it is anything but assured that a child nutrition bill will be passed next year. In the meantime, WIC and other child nutrition programs will continue to operate under the policies set by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

Chairman Roberts released the following statement yesterday: “Today is a day I hoped would not come,” Roberts said. “I’m very disappointed that the bipartisan, bicameral child nutrition reauthorization negotiations have come to an end for the 114th Congress.

“I’m proud of the commonsense reforms and the bipartisan strides we have made in the majority of the programs. However, we are nearing the end of this legislative calendar, and we have not been able to overcome minority objections and additionally those in the House.

“Though our committee passed a good, bipartisan bill — something no one said we could do — it wasn’t enough for some. I’m proud to say the Agriculture Committee conducted this reauthorization process in an open and transparent manner that listened to all stakeholders, including schoolchildren. We wrote a well-balanced bill that increased program integrity, flexibility, efficiency, and effectiveness.

“Since that bill was passed by our committee, we have been working to find an agreement with our colleagues in the House and the minority members of the Senate who halted the bill’s progress. In the end, we were not able to reach a bipartisan, bicameral compromise. It is unfortunate that certain parochial interests and the desire for issues rather than solutions were put ahead of the wellbeing of vulnerable and at-risk populations and the need for reform.

“When first considering this bill, I made it a priority to eat lunch with schoolchildren and to listen to school food service directors all across Kansas. They needed this bill.

“This is a lost opportunity to help hungry children and struggling schools. In addition, these programs will be vulnerable to attack without a reduction in the current error rates.

“As chairman of the committee, I remain committed to continuing to look for ways to increase integrity within the program and to provide flexibility to local school and summer meal program operators.”