Farm Bill


A farm bill is a collection of new laws and amendments to longstanding laws that sets the overall direction of federal food and farm policy for a specified number of years. Farm bills typically contain not only commodity price and income support provisions, but also provisions on agricultural trade, rural development, domestic food and nutrition assistance, foreign food aid and more. While nutrition programs such as the Food Stamp Program are reauthorized in the Farm Bill, the National School Lunch Program and other school-based child nutrition programs are not.

Farm Bill Passes Both House and Senate in Veto-Proof Votes

May 16, 2008 -- After months of delays and contentious debate, the Farm Bill finally passed Congress. On Wednesday, May 14th, the House of Representatives voted 318 to 106 to pass the conference committee report of H.R. 2419, The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.  The Senate passed the bill the following day with an 81-15 vote, sending the legislation to the White House.  President Bush has threatened to veto the Farm Bill, claiming that the legislation failed to sufficiently cut spending on subsidies.  Both the Senate and House passed the legislation by wide enough margins to override a potential veto.

The conference committee's final version of the Farm Bill included several provisions related to the school nutrition programs, several of which are described below: 

  • Expansion of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs - The bill increased funding from $9 million to $70 million a year, with the program available in 35 elementary and secondary schools in each of the 50 states.  The bill also allows additional schools to be added in proportion to the student population of the state and schools are selected based on free and reduced percentage. The Program no longer allows nuts but rather focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables only.   
  • Purchases of Locally Produced Foods - The bill eases bidding restrictions for school districts trying to acquire locally grown foods.  With this new language, school nutrition programs could use geographic preference in procuring locally grown items.  This change should help expand participation in farm to school programs.
  • Grain Pilot Program - The legislation allocates $4 million to establish a pilot program in a handfull of schools in several states.  The program will provide whole grain products to participating school nutrition programs for use in the reimbursable meal programs. 
  • Purchases of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Distribution to Schools (Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Program - The Farm Bill raises the amount of money allocated for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables to $50 million a year for the next 5 years.
  • Survey of Foods Purchased by School Food Authorities - Under this legislation, $3 million is allocated to periodically survey school nutrition programs to examine what types of food they purchase.
  • Healthy Food Education and Program Replicability - $10 million is authorized for a 5 state pilot program that makes grants available to "high-poverty" schools for school garden initiatives.  The bill also encourages the USDA to sponsor projects that promote nutrition education and can be replicated in schools.
  • " McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program - The bill increases funding for the program, which provides food assistance to school nutrition programs in developing nations, to $300 million.  This is a significant cut to the initial $840 million allocated in the original House version of the bill. 

Debate on the Farm Bill originally began over a year ago.  The House passed it's version of the bill on July 27, 2007, while the Senate voted on legislation in December 2007. 


Public Law version 6124 of the Farm Bill

Public Law version 6124 of the Farm Bill

Archived Farm Bill News

Other Farm Bill Resources

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