In a strong bipartisan vote, the U.S. Senate passed a significant measure today to reform the country's agriculture policy to reduce the deficit by $23 billion while also supporting 16 million jobs. In addition, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act contains a Manchin-sponsored amendment that would help young children develop healthy eating habits.
The bill passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 64-35.
The Manchin amendment, co-sponsored by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), would require the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture to develop, implement and promote national dietary guidelines for pregnant women and children between the ages zero and 2 years of age. No such standards exist currently. The amendment passed the Senate unanimously earlier this week.
"I am so pleased that we could come together as Democrats and Republicans to pass this Farm Bill, which is tremendously important to our economy and supports 16 million jobs. In addition to reforming this nation's agriculture policy to achieve savings of $23 billion, this bill also reduces waste, fraud, and abuse in our food stamp program while making sure that children and families get the nutrition that they need," Senator Manchin said.
"I am very proud that the Senate adopted my amendment to this bill unanimously, and that we are one step closer to ensuring that we have nutrition standards for pregnant women and children ages zero and 2, which do not currently exist. It is so important that we fill this gap in guidelines so that our children have the healthiest start possible in their most formative years. This amendment will help keep our kids healthy and strong, and prevent obesity and childhood illnesses as they grow older. I encourage my colleagues in the House of Representatives to support this commonsense amendment as well."
Every five years, the USDA and HHS jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines provide evidence-based nutrition information intended to promote good health and reduce the risk of obesity and chronic diseases for Americans ages 2 and older. These guidelines serve as the basis for federal nutrition policy, education, outreach, and food assistance programs. They are also used by consumers, industry, nutrition educators and health professionals.
The Manchin amendment is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association.
Background on the Farm Bill (According to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry):
The Farm Bill contains initiatives to help American veterans start agriculture businesses;
The legislation extends rural development initiatives to help rural communities upgrade infrastructure, extend broadband internet availability, and create a better environment for small businesses;
It increases investment in innovation in bio-energy production, supporting non-food based advanced biomass energy production;
The Farm Bill increases access to and the affordability of healthy food options in urban and rural low-income communities by authorizing the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to administer loans and grants to improve access to healthy foods in "food deserts";
The legislation also contains initiatives that give low-income individuals incentives for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables;
The Farm Bill promotes better health for school children by continuing the successful Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program, which provides fresh fruits and vegetables to elementary school children throughout the school day in school districts with a high proportion of low-income students;
It also continues the Department of Defense Fresh Program, which distributes fruits and vegetables to schools and service institutions, and continues to allow the Agriculture Marketing Service to conduct pilots to allow states to source locally grown produce.