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SNA Q&A - Wha't Next With Congress?

by Joe Kilmer

114th Congress Leaves Without Funding School Meals

Mon, Dec 12th 2016 03:00 pm

The 114th Congress officially adjourned in the early morning of Saturday, December 10. What does this mean for Child Nutrition policy? A brief Q&A follows.

Q: What happens now that the 114th Congress has adjourned without passing a Child NutritionReauthorization (CNR)?
A: While the House and Senate Committees of jurisdiction passed individual CNR bills, action stalled, and neither bill advanced to become law. Therefore, until the next Congress takes up a new reauthorization process, programs contained as provisions within the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010 will continue to remain in effect.

Q: Didn't the HHFKA expire on September 30, 2015?
A: Although the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 technically expired on September 30, 2015 - the child nutrition programs continue to operate under the Act. The school meals programs have permanent status, so the reauthorization of the actual programs is not required for them to continue. But the Reauthorization process provides an important opportunity for Congress to expand access to and improve these programs.

Q: So the HHFKA is still the law we operate under?
A: Yes. Absent a new CNR, HHFKA remains in place.

Q: What will happen when the new Congress begins in January? Will the Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Education and the Workforce Committee continue with the bills they passed in 2016?
A: When the 115th Congress begins, the Committees of jurisdiction must start over. A CNR bill will have to be drafted, debated and amended in both the House and Senate Committees and voted out for the full House and Senate to vote on. Once the House and Senate pass their versions of the bills, a small group of legislators - a "conference committee" - meets to merge them into one bill and resolve differences. Then, both the full House and Senate must pass the Conference Committee's final version of the Child Nutrition Act, which then goes to the White House for the President's signature.

Q: Given that the Target 2 sodium requirements are scheduled to go into effect July 2017, will that happen on schedule?
A: As you may know, the previous two Fiscal Year (FY) Appropriations bills contained language addressing sodium and whole grains. Fortunately, the recently passed FY 2017 spending bill also includes the same language, which extends through September 30, 2017. Given that this is a temporary solution, SNA will work with the new Administration and Congress to find a permanent solution.

Q: What has SNA been doing to address the looming Target 2 sodium reduction mandate?
A: SNA Leadership met privately with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) on November 17, 2016, urging him to help us with the challenges of sodium-reduction regulations. Chairman Roberts committed to working with SNA to find a permanent solution in the next Congress. SNA is also reaching out to the House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for meetings as well.

Q: What's Next?
A: The 115th Congress will be sworn in on January 3, 2017. Read the accompanying news story with a sneak peek of the 2017 legislative landscape. Also, be on the lookout for an early 2017 SNA survey regarding top priorities for school nutrition policy issues. These responses will be used to write the SNA 2017 Legislative Position Paper in mid-February 2017, and this Paper will chart the course for the Association's advocacy efforts in the new Congress.