Congress Passes Long Awaited Farm Bill
(February 6, 2014) Congress gave its final stamp of approval on Tuesday to a five-year reauthorization of the US Farm Bill, ending a three-year back and forth struggle to pass the legislation. The United States Senate voted on Tuesday to approve the five-year, $956.4 billion farm bill, after the US House voted last week to approve the measure. Overall, the bill is expected to reduce spending by $16 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Of particular interest to retailers were the reductions in SNAP funding. The $8.6 billion in savings to the program over the next 10 years will be achieved through a change in LIHEAP policy, which coincidentally, Ohio will not be affected by this change. The bill now heads to the President’s desk, where he has indicated he will sign the measure on Friday. Below is a list of additional changes for SNAP retailers:
- SNAP retailers will be required to implement point-of-sale technology systems that won’t allow SNAP benefits for the purchase of ineligible items, and will further preclude cashiers from manually overriding this prohibition. For those retailers who do not, they will eventually need to upgrade their systems, although this provision does not become effective until the Department of Agriculture issues regulations implementing it. This is likely to take at least several months.
- The bill requires SNAP retailers to stock at least seven different items in each of the four “staple food” categories. (Current law requires only three items in each category.)
- SNAP retailers must stock at least one “perishable” food item in at least three of the four staple food categories. (Current law requires perishable items in only two of the staple food categories.)