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SNAP benefit increases effective October 1

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Legislative Watch: Legislation to provide relief from ocean shipping challenges; Senators urge assistance to contract hog producers.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will increase 27%, or 40 cents per meal, beginning on Oct. 1 as the result of USDA updating the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP).  According to USDA, SNAP recipient will receive an increase of $36.24/month. The TFP is used to determine SNAP benefits. 

The 2018 Farm Bill required USDA to update the TFP. USDA focused on current food prices, what Americans typically eat, dietary guidance, and the nutrients in food items. The results found that SNAP benefits are too low to provide for a "realistic, healthy diet." There have been significant changes in the food marketplace and consumer choices since the plan was first introduced in 1975. 

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, "Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more. And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way."

The Senate and House Republican Agriculture Committee leaders are asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate USDA's update of the TFP. 

Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., and Representative Glenn Thomson, R-Pa., in a letter to GAO said, "The complexity of this process, and its likely impacts, create an urgent need for scrutiny, particularly on the heels of significant nutrition-related pandemic spending that has continued without rigorous oversight.”

They continued, “Without question, this review and update will have obvious and considerable impacts on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); while we expect this process will elicit an increase to the cost of the thrifty food plan—and subsequently monthly SNAP allotments—questions remain as to how the Department has gone about this review and update, including their methodologies."

Legislation to provide relief from ocean shipping challenges

Agriculture continues to face delays and increased costs for shipping exports overseas. Ocean shippers continue to bring products from China and other countries to U.S. ports and then return empty so they can refill containers as quickly as possible and ship products to the U.S. 

Representatives Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and John Garamendi, D-Calif., introduced the "Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021" to address this issue by updating federal regulations for foreign ocean shipping. 

The legislation would:

  • Establish reciprocal trade to promote U.S. exports as part of the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) mission.
  • Require ocean carriers to adhere to minimum service standards that meet the public interest, reflecting best practices in the global shipping industry.
  • Require ocean carriers or marine terminal operators to certify that any late fees —known in maritime parlance as “detention and demurrage” charges—comply with federal regulations or face penalties.
  • Shift burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of “detention or demurrage” charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier or marine terminal operator.
  • Prohibit ocean carriers from declining opportunities for U.S. exports unreasonably, as determined by the FMC in new required rulemaking.
  • Require ocean common carriers to report to the FMC each calendar quarter on total import/export tonnage and twenty-foot equivalent units (loaded/empty) per vessel that makes port in the United States.
  • Authorize the FMC to self-initiate investigations of ocean common carrier’s business practices and apply enforcement measures, as appropriate.

Nearly 100 agricultural organizations and companies sent a letter to Representatives Garamendi and Johnson in support of their bill. They stated: "The transportation crisis for US agriculture and forest products is becoming increasingly dire each month. There is nothing we produce in agriculture and forest products in this country, that cannot be sourced in some other country. If we cannot deliver, affordably and dependably, our foreign customers will find alternatives to our exports. Our survey suggests that on average 22% of US agriculture foreign sales cannot be completed due to ocean carrier rates, declining to carry export cargo, unreasonable demurrage and detention charges, and other practices."

Those signing the letter include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Trucking Associations, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Institute and North American Renderers Association.

Senators urge assistance to contract hog producers

Senators from Iowa and Minnesota are urging USDA to ensure that swine producers and contract swine growers receive benefits from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). 

Senators Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Tina Smith, D-Minn., wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack saying, "Our livestock and poultry contract growers have been waiting patiently for USDA to provide financial relief that so many desperately need. We’re concerned that USDA’s announcement on June 15 – that described its intent to finalize this program within 60 days – only focused on poultry growers and made no mention of providing assistance to contract swine growers.”

They continued, “Additionally, many pork producers have been waiting for USDA to roll out the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program swine top-up payments that was announced in January of this year."

The senators urged USDA to use all of the resources available to make contract growers eligible.

Sources: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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