IFPA Disappointed By House Ag Bill WIC Cuts And Grower Impact

Published online: May 22, 2023 Articles
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Washington, DC – The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) is disappointed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture’s passage of a funding bill that will strip key nutrition benefits from the WIC program and also have consequences for growers across the country. While the bill includes some positive provisions for the fresh produce and floral industries, IFPA and its members are disappointed in the current version.

IFPA’s Vice President of Nutrition and Health Mollie Van Lieu issued the following statement: The decision to rescind the enhanced fruit and vegetable benefit (Benefit Bump) amount in the WIC program is harmful to children and families. The Benefit Bump, in place since April 2021, reaches nearly 5 million women and children, and directly reflects science-based targets laid out by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) to deliver at least 50 percent of fruit and vegetable intake recommended by the recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs).

The FY24 bill reflects a 56 percent reduction in benefits for children and a 70 percent drop for women. With this decision, children will receive just $11 a month for fruits and vegetables starting October 1 of this year.

Meanwhile, recent CDC data shows that almost half of American children do not consume a daily vegetable. Yet, the WIC program, which targets our nation’s most vulnerable children, has been a success story with participating children consuming more than two cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Any shopper can tell you $11 is not enough to access a month’s worth of fruits and vegetables.

Since 2021, data from 29 state WIC agencies showed that fruit and vegetable purchases tripled with the average monthly amount going from $15.3 million prior to the Benefit Bump to $48 million after the bump. Expanding this trend to all state WIC agencies shows that the Benefit Bump results in more than $75.1 million additional fruit and vegetable redemptions each month.

If enacted, the impact of these cuts are not limited to women and children, produce growers and retailers would stand to lose $1.2 billion worth of fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be available to WIC participants.

In contrast, we are pleased to see that the FY24 legislation would waive of the matching requirement for Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) which provides foundational research for the fresh produce industry. We are also supportive of the much needed $8.5M increase to deal with specialty crop pests, as well as investment in USDA School Kitchen Equipment Grants.

IFPA will continue advocating for the enhanced fruit and vegetable benefit in WIC as well as additional nutrition programs that support healthful eating for all Americans.