USDA

USDA Proposal Seeks to Remove 3 Million Recipients from Food Stamps and Rescind School Lunch from Over 265,000 Children

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Originally Appeared in Presence Marketing News, August 2019
By Steven Hoffman

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on July 23 proposed new rules to limit access to food stamps for households with savings and other assets, a measure that could cut benefits to 3.1 million people participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). According to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue in a call with reporters, the proposed SNAP rules are aimed at ending automatic eligibility for those who are already receiving federal and state assistance. “What we’ve found is some states are taking advantage of loopholes. This proposal will save money and preserve the integrity of the program. SNAP should be a temporary safety net,” said Perdue. Secretary Perdue’s “rhetoric makes it sound like there are many households out there taking advantage of this so-called ‘loophole,’” reported H. Claire Brown in New Food Economy. However, Brown points out that the Congressional Research Office (CRO) found that only 4.2% of households that received SNAP benefits in 2016 were making more than the SNAP program income limit of 130 percent of the federal poverty line, or approximately $1,307 per month for an individual.

The majority of SNAP recipients—85%—fell below the poverty line. This suggests that the number of families that make a little more money and are grandfathered in by broad-based categorical eligibility is quite small, Brown asserts. The Trump administration estimates that the new rule will rescind food assistance from about 3 million of a total 36 million SNAP participants, or about 8% of the total. Based on CRO estimates, “this seems to indicate it’s possible that many of the people who stand to lose benefits are actually eligible for SNAP under the regular rules—they just haven’t gone through the process of filling out all the paperwork,” Brown writes. “This rule seems to be inserting another layer of red tape between people entitled to food assistance and their benefits,” she adds. In addition, Brown reports, USDA’s proposed changes could potentially take free school lunch away from 265,000 students. Students are automatically eligible for free lunch if they receive SNAP benefits. If automatic SNAP eligibility is uncoupled from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, children may lose their free lunch as a result. When asked about this on the press call, Brandon Lipps, administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, said, “USDA is estimating all the children who will no longer be directly certified for school meals if their parents are not categorically eligible would qualify for free or reduced price meals through the regular application process.” What this means, Brown reports, is more paperwork for parents.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A New Public Private Partnership, the Colorado Hemp Advancement & Management Plan (CHAMP), Is Set to Strengthen the State’s Leadership Position in Hemp

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Originally appeared in the Let’s Talk Hemp Blog & Newsletter
By Steven Hoffman

With the passage in 2012 of marijuana legalization in Colorado, the hemp industry also got an early start in the state, and Colorado is now considered one of the country’s epicenters of hemp agriculture, manufacturing and production. To further that leadership position, Governor Jared Polis has created a unique new public-private initiative, the Colorado Hemp Advancement & Management Plan (CHAMP). His priority in establishing the CHAMP initiative is for “Colorado to remain an innovating force in the promotion of this high-value agricultural commodity,” says the CHAMP website.

Led by Betsy Markey, former Representative to U.S. Congress and current cabinet member of the Polis administration and Executive Director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, along with Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg, CHAMP is a year-long statewide initiative that brings together state, local and tribal agencies, as well as industry experts in cultivation, testing, research, processing, finance, economics and marketing. The collaborative effort to help formulate a blueprint for Colorado’s hemp industry includes the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Governor’s Office, Department of Public Health and Environment, Department of Revenue, Department of Regulatory Agencies, Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Department of Public Safety, Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, Department of Higher Education, local governments and industry experts.

“We had one of the first hemp programs in the country,” Greenberg recently told Westword Magazine. “We’ve got pretty incredible experience in Colorado; our state is set up for it, and our governor is all about hemp. It’s a fantastic time to be doing this work in Colorado, so I think by all accounts, we are ahead of the game. Our intent is to stay there,” she said. In addition to serving as Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, Greenberg is the former Western Program Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition.

When asked about how to handle issues like “hot” hemp (hemp that exceeds the legal limit of THC), Greenberg said, “Before CHAMP, we didn’t have an avenue to figure these things out, so we took leadership in creating a structure that will allow regulatory agencies, industries, Native tribes, learning institutions and farmers to sit around a table and actually develop answers. There are still so many questions about the X, Y and Z of hemp — like interstate transport [and] how the Department of Public Safety can determine what is hemp and what is not. All of those questions finally have a table to sit at,” Greenberg said.

“CHAMP… is a huge, coordinated effort that includes anyone who has a stake in the game across Colorado, but it’s also going to be open-sourced,” Greenberg continued. “We’ve been talking to other states that don’t have programs, and are offering our expertise. We don’t see this as something we need to hold on to and keep away from everyone. We’ve got a national and international industry with this now, and we can’t keep it within closed borders in Colorado. This is going to have to include interstate commerce, and we really see our creativity and desire to bring in thought leaders as ways to continue our leadership,” she added.

“One way to establish our leadership is getting our state plan into the USDA. We’re in close communication with the USDA to make sure they see us as a partner in this, and that we are a resource. Submitting our state plan is big here, just to make sure our state’s hemp program is still a leader. Another one is the larger CHAMP report, which will show what it takes to grow our hemp industry beyond the Farm Bill. This is a big-vision process,” Greenberg said.

The CHAMP initiative is divided into eight “Stakeholder Groups,” including Research & Development and Seed; Cultivation; Transportation; Testing; Processing; Manufacturing (Food Commodities); Marketing; and Banking and Insurance. The stakeholder groups are scheduled to meet this summer and fall. In addition, leaders of the CHAMP initiative will hold several public meetings, with the first scheduled for Friday, August 16, 2019, in Hesperus, CO. To RSVP for the public meeting and for more information, visit https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agplants/champ-initiative.

Editor’s Note: Morris Beegle, Co-founder of We Are for Better Alternatives (WAFBA), producer of the NoCo Hemp Expo, Southern Hemp Expo, Hemp on the Slope, Hawaii Hemp Expo and the Let’s Talk Hemp Podcast and Newsletter, was appointed to serve on the CHAMP Marketing Stakeholder Group. In addition, Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural, public relations agency of record for WAFBA and Editor of the Let’s Talk Hemp Newsletter, was also named to the CHAMP Marketing Stakeholder Group.