National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

April 25, 2016

Child Nutrition Reauthorization: The House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN), introduced an unfortunate child nutrition reauthorization bill, the ironically titled Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003), last Wednesday.

The harmful provisions in the bill pertaining to WIC include:

  • The introduction of new restrictions on the competitive bidding process for infant foods other than infant formula
  • The requirement for an impossibly short 18-month study to be conducted examining the impact of adjunctive eligibility on WIC participation
  • A number of corporate giveaways for infant formula manufacturers complicating cost-containment contracting
  • A provision for food retailers making it increasingly challenging for states to put in place vendor moratoria
  • The exclusion of NWA key priorities to provide states the option to extend certification of infants to two years and to extend enrollment for children until their sixth birthdays
  • A provision requiring a study to be conducted examining the consumption and redemption rates of fluid milk by WIC participants (yet another example of Congress circumventing the scientific rigor of the IOM review process and undermining the scientific integrity of the food packages).

H.R. 5003 is a partisan, ideologically-driven bill that, if passed, would weaken child nutrition programs—including WIC—by introducing additional barriers to enrollment and administrative hurdles and by undercutting nutrition science and standards.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Congressman John Kline (R-MN), is expected to markup H.R. 5003 by this Thursday, April 28, although the markup has not yet been officially scheduled.

The National WIC Association will be providing an opportunity this week for you to tell Congress to oppose this bill. Be on the lookout for more details about how you can make your voice heard on this issue.

Budget and Appropriations: Last Tuesday, the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill was approved by the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Hal Rogers (R-KY), by a voice vote. The $21.3 billion spending bill provides $6.35 billion in discretionary funding for WIC, which is the same as the FY 2016 enacted funding level and the President’s FY 2017 request. Unlike the President’s budget, which allocates $80 million for the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor program, and NWA’s $90 million request, the House bill sets aside only $60 million for peer counselors. The authorized funding level for peer counselors is $90 million, but Congress has never appropriated more than $60 million for the program. While the National WIC Association is disappointed in the House bill’s allocation for peer counselors, we are confident that the $6.35 billion funding level will be adequate to meet caseload needs in FY 2017.

Declining enrollments in WIC and high levels of carryover balances from previous years, including this year, encouraged language in the House bill that rescinds $100 million in unobligated balances from WIC. This rescission should have no impact on participation in the program or on WIC’s ability to meet caseload needs, nor will it affect overall budget authority.