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Food Policy in the New Administration

Food Policy in the New Administration

With the inauguration of a new president come potential changes to our current food policy.  While never a primary focus of his campaign, President Trump has made several statements and cabinet appointments that can certainly give us a glimpse of what is to come. Below is a summary of how some of the areas will be impacted by the new administration.

Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP may be separated out of the Farm Bill making it more susceptible to budget cuts.

SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) provides vouchers for groceries for qualifying low-income Americans. As of August 2016, 43.6 million Americans are enrolled in the program (almost 14% of the US population). It is overseen by the USDA and is funded via the Farm Bill (the large piece of legislation that also funds subsidies for agriculture); approximately 70% of Farm Bill spending is for SNAP. The Republican platform has been pushing for its separation from the Farm Bill since 2013, stating it should never have been under the USDA oversight in the first place. If this were to go through, it would make the program susceptible to significant budget cuts. House Speaker Paul Ryan has already indicated he hopes to drain $1 trillion from the program over the next ten years. 

National School Lunch Program
Under the new administration, many of the changes to school food that were made under the guidance of the former First Lady Michelle Obama may be rolled back.

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) program is due for a review this year. House Republicans have expressed interest in rolling back items in the school lunch program that First Lady Michelle Obama worked to put in place. For example, they want to get rid of the “Smart Snacks” rule that tackled on-campus junk food fundraising and want to allow schools to sell “a la carte” items like pizza and fries on a daily basis. They’ve also proposed a three-state block grant pilot for school meals, which could cripple school meal programs and which some see as a precursor to dismantling the entire National School Lunch Program. 

Environmental Policy
The President has called climate change "a hoax" and plans to rescind many of President Obama’s efforts to move towards cleaner energy and stricter environmental regulations.

The environmental impact of a Trump administration is perhaps of our greatest concern. Trump has made it explicitly clear that he plans to rescind may of the Obama administration’s efforts and goals around environmental policy and regulation. He is calling for more fossil fuel drilling and fewer environmental regulations and hopes to rescind President Obama’s Clean Power Plan which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.

Trump feels strongly that EPA regulation is an intrusion on farmers, stating during a speech in Iowa, “Family farms are the backbone of this country. We are going to end the EPA intrusion into your family homes and your family farms." 

Trump has recently stated he has an “open mind” about confronting climate change but it is unclear whether the United States will pull out of the Paris Agreement, the first international plan to combat climate change. Trump named Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be EPA administrator, an individual who has sued the EPA in the past over its regulations of power plants. Pruitt has a reputation for working with fossil fuel companies to increase our dependency on fossil fuels rather than take actions to conserve the environment. During Pruitt's hearings in front of the Environment and Public Works Committee he's said, "Science tells us that the climate is changing, and that human activity, in some manner, impacts that change. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue."

Food safety
Trump wants to limit the scope of FDA, effectively slashing food safety regulations.

Part of Trump’s tax plan involves limiting the scope of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which he refers to as the “Food Police.” The FDA’s primary task is to protect public health and our food supply. However the Republican party’s anti-regulation platform argues that stringent rules (such as those put in place by the FDA) are a burden on businesses and job creation. Trump has suggested that the FDA regulations go too far in governing “the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures and even what animals may roam which fields and when” and hopes to reduce rules that may weaken the economy.

Many argue that without these guidelines, not only is food-borne illness more likely to develop with fewer food safety regulations and inspections, but the food supply will become more susceptible to fraud. Interestingly while Trump plans to reduce food safety regulations, he has proclaimed that one of the reasons he has an affinity for fast food is because he feels it is cleaner than food from non-chains due to their standards.  He believes they would not risk going out of business and serving “bad meat” and “at least you know” what is in the food.

Food Labeling Laws
The law mandating nutrition information labeling would likely be thrown out along with the Affordable Care Act.

Trump and the Republican party are in the process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). One of the provisions of Obamacare was the requirement that standard menu items at qualifying chain restaurants and vending machines have proper nutrition labeling. The deadline for compliance has been set for May of this year and most businesses and chains have been working hard to make sure they will be ready. However, if repealed, this provision may no longer be in effect (although the patchwork of local regulations would still apply). In terms of other food labels, Trump has confirmed support for GMO food and does not support government efforts to mandate GMO labeling.

In summary, though many of the federal food policy and environmental programs will be changed under the new administration, there is plenty of work that continues at the state level to support policies that encourage food that's good for us and the environment.  As a new president takes office, there are ways that individuals can stay abreast of developments concerning food policy and environmental sustainability:

Food Tank
Civil Eats Food  and Policy
Sustainable Table
And lastly, information about how to contact your local representatives

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