Farm Progress

Policy quick hits: Farm Bureau slams EPA water rule

Also: Dems mock GOP memo, broadband program in doubt and more money for rural schools.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

April 15, 2024

4 Min Read
U.S. capitol building with flag background
Getty Images/franckreporter

There’s never a shortage of agriculture news. Here are a few policy stories you may have missed over the past week.

Farm Bureau says EPA water regulations unfair

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says new EPA’s final National Primary Drinkng Water Regulations are unfair. While acknowledging the effort EPA made to provide flexibility and support for small and rural systems, he says more needs to be done to lessen the burden of the rule. As he puts it, everyone wants clean drinking water, but there are households that will not be able to afford it due to the new rules

“Rural America shares the goal of ensuring the water we use to raise our families and grow our crops is healthy,” Duvall says. “Unfortunately, EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulation will disproportionally impact small communities, which lack the resources of large metropolitan systems, but will still be on the hook to pay the exorbitant costs of treating their water for PFAS chemicals.”

The new regulations set maximum contaminant levels at four parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS and 10 parts per trillion for PFNA, PFHxS and HFPO-DA.

Dems mock GOP memo

Last week, House Republicans began circulating a memo with talking points on how to reform federal nutrition funding. It didn’t take long for Dems to get their hands on the memo. It was soon posted on the House Agriculture Committee Democrats social media page. However, it was marked up like a bad high school term paper, complete with an “F” letter grade and point by point arguments countering Republican points.

It was a clever response highlighting the vastly different stances on nutrition funding between the two parties. It’s also another example of just how hard it may be to pass a bipartisan farm bill.

WIC changes finalized

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service finalized updates to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants, and Children. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the changes will strengthen the WIC program by ensuring participants receive food reflective of the latest nutrition science for healthy eating. Those changes also aim to accommodate personal and cultural food preferences and special dietary needs.

Among the changes are expanded varieties of eligible fruits and vegetables. USDA expanded whole grain options to include foods like quinoa, blue cornmeal and teff to reflect dietary guidance and accommodate individual or cultural preferences.

The new rules allow for more flexibility in the amount of infant formula provided to partially breastfed infants and required canned beans to be offered in addition to dried beans. Canned fish is also included in more food packages.

USDA also added non-dairy substitutes, including plant-based yogurts and cheeses, and well as a requirement for lactose-free milk to me made available.

Officials with the National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Association applauded the inclusion of more dairy options like lactose-free milk. However, they were disappointed the new rules cut the overall amount of dairy allotted to WIC food packages.

“Nutrition science demonstrates that dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese are especially important for women, infants, and children; meanwhile, nearly 90% of Americans don’t meet the number of dairy servings recommended by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” NMPF President Gregg Doud says. “This rule works against the WIC Program’s goal of ensuring all Americans have consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods.”

Budzinski calls on Republicans to renew Affordable Connectivity Program

Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D- Ill., is calling on Republican lawmakers to renew the Affordable Connectivity Program. That program provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.

Recipients are allowed a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

According to Buzinski, the program has allowed more than 23 million Americans to access affordable high-speed internet. She notes rural Americans are 16% less likely to have access to broadband than urban residents. With the program set to expire, she hopes GOP lawmakers will allow lawmaker to vote on additional funding for the program.

Forest Service allocates $232 million for rural schools

The USDA Forrest Service announced Feb. 12 it will invest $232 million toward projects supporting public schools, roads and related municipal services. The aid will be allocated through the Forest Service’s Secure Rural School program with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It will support 745 eligible counties in 41 states.

“This funding aids schools and roads, reimburses counties for national forest emergency services, and assists in creating community wildfire protection plans – all critical programs designed to enhance the quality of life in these communities,” Forest Service Chief Randy Moore says.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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