2019 Legislative Session is Just Around the Corner!

As we say goodbye to 2018 and look ahead to 2019, LiveWell’s policy team is gearing up for another legislative session. The Colorado General Assembly convenes on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, and wraps up on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. As always, it will be a busy 120 days with lots of twists and turns along the way, made a bit more interesting with approximately 33 new legislators and the trifecta of Democrats controlling the governor’s office, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.

It will be a busy session for LiveWell with many pieces of legislation that could impact access to healthy food and to active living. Below are the issues we know of at this point that we will engage on:

  • Incentives for Schools Purchasing Colorado Grown Products – This bill will provide a monetary incentive, around .05 cents per meal, along with training and promotion assistance to schools that initiate or increase purchasing of Colorado grown, raised, or processed products for inclusion in their school meal programs. The program not only provides school kids with healthy, Colorado food, but also stimulates the economy by increasing demand for products produced by local growers/producers.
  • Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council (COFSAC) and Farm to School (FtS) Task Force – Combines COFSAC with the FtS Task Force and provides a staff person to coordinate and support the Council. The purpose of the Council is to grow local, regional, and statewide food economies within which producers have access to new markets and low-income populations have access to fresh, affordable, healthy foods.
  • Agriculture Conservation and Resource Areas – The program will assist local producers in developing plans for agriculture conservation and with the promotion and sustainability of regional food production systems
  • Beginning Farmer/Rancher Tax Credit – Replaces the existing beginning farmer and rancher tax deduction (applicable for the sale or lease of land, equipment, crops and livestock) with a tax credit.
  • Multi-modal Transportation Funding – With the defeat of Proposition 110 in November, it is back to the drawing board regarding transportation funding and in particular multi-modal funding. No details are available at this point but there are many ideas being batted around. It is likely that we will see legislation and to the extent legislators introduce bills that present an opportunity for multi-modal funding, we will engage. We are also keeping tabs on whether regional transportation funding initiatives are brought forth in 2019.
  • Extending School Lunch Protection Program through 12th grade – Last year, we were part of a coalition that worked to pass Senate Bill 18-013 which extended state funding to cover the $0.40 co-pay for kids who receive reduced-price school lunches to include grades six through eight (previously the co-pay was only covered through fifth grade). This year we will support the coalition’s effort to extend coverage of the co-pay through 12th grade so that all kids who qualify for reduced-price lunch will receive lunch for free, regardless of whether they are in elementary, middle, or high school.
  • Physical Activity (PA) and Physical Education (PE) – We are hearing there may be legislation to require mandatory recess in public schools, as well as legislation to create a grant program to assist schools with costs associated with adopting PE best practices. LiveWell has long supported the inclusion of PA and PE in schools as we value the positive impact movement has on kids’ ability to learn.

The FARM Bill is Finished – and it’s Pretty Darn Good!

Finally. Congress did it. The long-awaited, much-debated, and heavily-negotiated final farm bill has passed Congress and now sits on the President’s desk, awaiting his expected signature this week. Amid questions of whether they could overcome the unusually partisan nature of this farm bill effort and get the bill finished by the end of the Congressional session, the compromise farm bill conference report was finally released on Monday evening. The bill, 807 pages long with an estimated price tag of $867 billion over 10 years, passed with strong bi-partisan support in the Senate and House: 87-13 in the Senate and 369-47 in the House. The bill continues farm and nutrition policy for the next five years.

For the past year, LiveWell, in conjunction with our national, state, and local partners, have been primarily advocating for SNAP integrity, the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI), and the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) – all programs that strengthen healthy food access and the development of local and regional food systems. We are happy to report that all three of these priorities were included in the final farm bill with FINI and LAMP receiving permanent baseline funding (meaning those programs, regardless of the five year time limit, will continue to receive funding).

SNAP
The farm bill compromise was stripped of all major changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) sought by House Republicans, such as stricter work requirements, tighter eligibility standards, and language to rein in state waivers for existing SNAP work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents. However, the final bill did not include Senate language that would have blocked the Trump Administration from changing waiver requirements that states can receive that ease existing SNAP work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents, which means restrictions can be put in place without Congressional approval. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is expected to release a proposed rule on work requirement waivers in the coming weeks. Also, happily, the bill retained funding for SNAP nutrition education programs, a critical component of healthy food access.

FINI
A significant priority for LiveWell was the obtaining permanent funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program. This program funds Colorado’s Double Up Food Bucks program that provides matching funding for SNAP recipients to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The final farm bill boosted FINI by providing $250 million in mandatory funding over five years, creating an education and technical assistance center to help increase fruit and vegetable purchases, and renaming the program the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentives Program. Also included in the Nutrition Incentives Program is a pilot Fruit and Vegetable Rx program called the Harvesting Health Pilot program that can receive up to 10 percent of the Nutrition Incentives Program funds.

Local and Regional Food Systems
The inclusion of permanent and mandatory funding for the “tiny but mighty” programs constitutes a significant win for advocates of local and regional food system development. In addition to funding, the final bill consolidates and improves several tiny but mighty programs:

  • Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) – Merges the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and provides $50 million per year in baseline funding. LAMP includes a new regional public private partnership using federal resources to leverage private investment and encourage “foodshed” approaches to developing regional food economies.
  • Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program – Combines the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (“Section 2501”) and provides $435 million in permanent funding over 10 years. FOTO also expands and strengthens BFRPD while increasing transparency, accountability, and responsiveness of the 2501 program.

 

Issues Remain

This is not a perfect bill. As stated above, it largely continues much of the 2014 Farm Bill. It fails to address food and farm business consolidation, dwindling rural populations and resources, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Additionally, farm safety net reforms for crop insurance and commodity subsidies were noticeably absent; in fact, in some cases, existing loopholes were expanded.

For comprehensive coverage, check out NSAC’s blog posts on the 2018 Farm Bill!

 

LiveWell Colorado Legislation Tracking Lists

Bill tracking for the Colorado Legislature and the U.S. Congress will return in 2019 when their respective sessions resumes in January. If there is a particular bill from the 2018 session you are interested in or have questions about, please let us know!