The US government spending bill expands agricultural programs and some food aid

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Written by Leah Douglas

(Reuters) – A temporary funding bill to keep the US government open was signed by President Joe Biden Thursday’s includes funding through next September for agricultural programs and food assistance, but only a few months’ worth of money for a key nutrition program for low-income mothers and their young children.

The spending bill passed by the House on Tuesday and the Senate on Wednesday funds government functions through Jan. 19 and includes a one-year extension of the 2018 farm bill, which expired on Sept. 30.

The Farm Bill, passed every five years, costs about half a trillion dollars and funds farm subsidies, crop insurance, food assistance, environmental conservation programs, and much more.

Without the extension, some agricultural programs would have expired at the end of the year. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees have not yet released drafts of the 2023 farm bill.

The extension means more than 41 million Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants will continue to receive benefits through September 30.

However, the spending bill only funds the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program through January 19 because WIC is not included in the farm bill.

WIC provides food, breastfeeding support and other services to 6.7 million low-income mothers and young children, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program.

Congress will need to act quickly to avoid a lack of WIC funding that could lead to diminished benefits or denial of new applicants, Georgia Machel, interim president and CEO of the National WIC Association, said in a statement.

“Either outcome would be unnecessary and unacceptable,” Machel said.

Recent USDA data showed millions more Americans were food insecure in 2022 than in 2021, confirming previous reports from the Census Bureau and food banks that showed hunger has risen since the pandemic.

(Reporting by Leah Douglas, Editing by Chizuo Nomiyama)

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