On Friday, President Obama signed the Omnibus Appropriations Bill into law. It provides funding for WIC for Fiscal Year 2014 and assures a significant measure of program funding stability. It funds WIC at $6.716 billion, through September 30, 2015, provides $125 million for the Contingency Fund; sets aside $60 million for breastfeeding peer counselors, $14 million for infrastructure funding, and $30 million for MIS/EBT.
NWA requested $6.79 billion, $74 million more than provided for in the legislation. Nevertheless, NWA is pleased with the negotiated outcome, particularly that the legislation providing funding for the set-asides does not require these to be caseload dependent. This is good news for breastfeeding peer counselors, MIS/EBT, and WIC program integrity.
For states where a vendor moratorium is in place, the legislative language also allows a waiver of 7 CFR 246.12(g)(6) On-site preauthorization visit. “The State agency must conduct an on-site visit prior to or at the time of a vendor's initial authorization,” at the request of a State Agency.
In a disappointment, the report provides for language to include white potatoes in the WIC food package, however, it also allows the Secretary an “opt out” by explaining to the Committee why white potatoes are not included. The important point here is that legislative language would likely have required the Secretary to include white potatoes, whereas report language allows the Secretary discretion. NWA expects the Secretary to stand firm in support of the scientific process, utilizing the Institute of Medicine to make recommendations on the form and substance of the WIC food package.
Farmm bill negotiators have hinted that they are close to reaching an agreement to determine policies for SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs, farm subsidies, and other farm programs for the next five years. They could present their deal to Congress as early as next week, when Congress is back in session on January 27th. WIC policy is generally not determined by the Farm Bill, but rather the WIC & Child Nutrition Act up for reauthorization in 2015. Disturbingly, the bill will reduce funding for the Special Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, by $8.6 billion.