This morning, the House Appropriations Committee released the text for its FY 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which governs WIC funding. The bill includes a total of $155.3 billion in funding for agriculture and nutrition programs, a $3.2 billion increase above FY 2019 funding. The House bill rejects the vision laid out by the President’s Budget, which would have seen a 15% reduction in USDA spending.
Under the bill, WIC would be funded at $6 billion – a $75 million decrease from FY 2019 enacted levels. This is a modest decrease compared to the President’s Budget, which recommended a lower overall funding level of $5.75 billion. As in the past few years, the House bill would rescind $800 million in unspent funds.
Notably, the House bill would increase funding for WIC’s highly successful Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program by $10 million, bringing it to a total of $70 million. This would mark the first new investment for the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program in nearly a decade, although it falls short of NWA’s recommended funding levels of $90 million.
The Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee will convene tomorrow to consider the bill and advance it to the full House Appropriations Committee. In the House, several appropriations bills have already advanced. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has long signaled that he would like to complete the appropriations process by the end of June. The Senate is not moving as swiftly, although it is possible they will release a bill before the August recess.
The House bill also officially blocks USDA from relocating the Economic Research Service (ERS), the agency that oversees nutrition research and WIC program evaluation. In August 2018, Secretary Perdue announced plans to relocate ERS outside of the National Capital Region and has been soliciting bids in North Carolina and the Midwest. In recognition of Secretary Perdue’s plans to reorganize ERS under the Office of the Secretary, the House bill also prohibits USDA from moving ERS outside of USDA’s research arm. NWA has led nutrition groups in raising awareness about the harmful impacts that these two changes would have on ERS and the integrity of its research.
The appropriations process cannot formally be completed until Congress and the White House come to an agreement on the overall budget numbers. At this point, the Agriculture Appropriations bill’s total spending level of $155.3 billion is an estimate, and is by no means guaranteed until an overall budget deal is reached. Yesterday, White House officials met with Congressional leaders in two meetings to hammer out a spending agreement. NWA will continue to update members as the budget and appropriations processes unfold.