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Environmentalists Criticize Funding For Senate's Child Nutrition Plan

As we reported last week, the Senate Agriculture committee unanimously passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids of 2010, sending the bill on for consideration by the full Senate.

The bill, originally introduced by Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, has stirred controversy among school lunch reform advocates by asking for only an additional $4.5 billion for child nutrition programs over the next 10 years, less than half of the $10 billion that the Obama administration had requested.

How To Pay For The Proposed Reforms

And now environmentalists have also entered the debate, angry about where even this money is slated to come from -- the bill proposes the appropriation of funds that would otherwise go to USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or "EQIP".

The function of EQIP is to allocate subsidies to farmers who employ environmentally friendly farming practices. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG):

[EQIP] has been the most important program providing money and technical assistance to help farmers and ranchers reduce their environmental impact.

Cuts to the agriculture budget outlined in the farm bill of 2008, have left little money to invest in school lunch programs and the present economic and political climate has made it difficult to appropriate the funds through other means.

So, if passed by Congress, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act would reallocate $2.8 billion dollars over the next 10 years from EQIP's budget to the new efforts to the new child nutrition programs.


But not all are opposed to the proposed reallocation of funds from EQIP to child nutrition programs. Some food activists disapprove of what they see as EQIP's disproportionate allocation of subsidies to factory farms instead of to smaller family-owned farms.

Jill Richardson, of La Vida Locavore, praises the bill for opting to take funds from EQIP, instead of what she sees as the more effective conservation group, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) (another possible alternative proposed by authors of the bill ).

Senior Vice President of EWG Craig Cox proposes yet another alternative:

At a time when we face record deficits, and growing burden on the environment from production agriculture and a desperate need for better nutrition to combat the obesity epidemic plaguing America's children, it makes more sense to find savings in the lavish subsidy and crop insurance programs for commodity crops, instead of scalping proven and less costly conservation clean-water initiatives.

What Do You Think?

Does the bill under consideration go far enough in its proposed changes to school lunch programs? and how should we go about paying for the reforms? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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