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Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I rise today to offer my support for the Military Family Nutrition Protection Act, which we introduced today to protect the eligibility of military families for nutrition assistance programs. This bill will do a great service to the families of our men and women serving in uniform in combat zones overseas.
When a soldier is deployed to a combat zone such as Iraq or Afghanistan, he or she receives a temporary increase in pay called ``combat pay.'' Too often, combat pay increases the soldier's salary to a level that makes his family ineligible for essential nutrition assistance programs like the School Lunch and School Breakfast programs; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; and other programs. The family can no longer receive government assistance for food, despite the fact that the soldier's increase in pay is only temporary.
Our bill will remove this burden from our military families and stop punishing them for the sacrifices their loved ones make overseas. The bill stipulates that combat zone pay be excluded from consideration when determining a family's eligibility for all child nutrition programs. That way, when a soldier deploys to a combat zone, his or her family can continue to receive the nutrition assistance it needs, and our soldiers have one less thing to worry about in the combat zone.
As Secretary of Agriculture, I proposed a similar combat pay exemption for Food Stamp eligibility, a proposal that was included in the final version of the Farm Bill passed by Congress last year. The Military Family Nutrition Protection Act is the logical next step to ensuring our military families get the assistance they need while their loved ones are away at war.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am proud to cosponsor this important piece of legislation. I look forward to working on the upcoming reauthorization of the child nutrition programs, and I will urge my colleagues on the Committee and in the Senate to include the Military Family Nutrition Protection Act as part of that reauthorization.
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