U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on Wednesday, July 19, the names of three new individuals who will be taking leadership roles within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Brandon Lipps will serve as the Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), while also serving as Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (FNCS) until a permanent appointee is nominated by the president and approved by the Senate. Previously, Lipps worked for the Texas Tech University System as the Chief of Staff and Director of Federal Affairs in the Office of Chancellor Robert Duncan, served as counsel and senior professional staff to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, and held various positions under Chancellor Duncan while he served as Texas State Senator.
Maggie Lyons will serve as Chief of Staff and senior advisor to the Under Secretary. Before joining the USDA, Lyons was the Senior Government Relations Director for the National Grocers Association (NGA) and worked on Capitol Hill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Lastly, Kailee Tkacz will serve as policy advisor to the Under Secretary. Her work experience includes serving as the Director of Food Policy for the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), Director of Government Affairs for the Snack Food Association, and Government Affairs Manager for the National Grocers Association.
Regarding the staffing announcements, Secretary Perdue issued this statement: “The health and nutrition programs administered by USDA play a tremendous role in the Administration’s efforts to improve education and job readiness. I have no doubt that Brandon, Maggie, and Kailee will help further our mission of feeding the world and making decisions in our nutrition programs that are science-based and data-driven. I welcome Brandon, Maggie, and Kailee to the USDA family and I thank them for their desire to serve this nation.”
Also on Wednesday, the White House sent the Senate Agriculture Committee its official notice of intent to nominate Stephen Censky for USDA Deputy Secretary. Censky previously served at USDA in both the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and worked on the 1990 farm bill. He most recently served as the American Soybean Association’s Chief Executive Officer for 21 years. You can view an organizational chart of these positions and others within USDA on the USDA website.
USDA is requesting ideas from the public on how they can provide better customer service and remove unintended barriers to participation in federal programs like school meal programs. USDA is especially asking for public ideas on regulations, guidance documents, or any other policy documents that are in need of reform; for example ideas to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal those items. As subject matter experts in school nutrition, your input is essential to these efforts. Stay tuned for SNA’s action alert requesting your comment and providing a simple way for you to submit it in just a few clicks.
The Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies approved a $145.4 billion appropriations bill on July 18th. The FY2018 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, or S. 1603, supports federal agriculture and nutrition programs in FY2018, and is $4.85 billion above the President’s budget request, but $7.9 billion below the previous year’s enacted level. The bill was then sent to the full Senate Appropriations Committee, which passed the bill in a hearing on July 20th. Next, the bill will make its way to the full Senate for discussion. Upon passage, it will then be reconciled with the House version before a final vote in each chamber.
FY 2018 House Appropriations Agriculture Bill containing $25 million for school cafeteria equipment grants and policy provisions for whole grains and sodium flexibility, passed the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee on June 28th. Report language for the House appropriations bill contains text stating that while the Community Eligibility Provision simplifies program administration, “a higher threshold would better target program resources to lower-income households”. SNA is monitoring the implications of this language and will keep SNA members notified of any updates.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) released a report in June 2017 titled, Children’s Food Security and USDA Child Nutrition Programs . The report presents updated statistics on food insecurity among school-age children from the Food Security Supplement to the Current Population Survey for 2014 and 2015. 16.6 percent of households with children were classified as food insecure, and children were reported to be food insecure in 7.8 percent of all households with children. The report goes on to summarize recent research on the effects of child nutrition programs on children’s food insecurity and diets. Research shows that these programs reduce food insecurity and contribute to diet quality and academic performance for children from low-income and food-insecure houses. View the full report here.
The proposed APEC III study will provide FNS with the information needed to reduce improper payments in the school meals programs. The study will survey a nationally representative sample of school food authorities (SFAs), a sample of schools within each SFA, and a random sample of students within each school that applied or were directly certified for free and reduced-price meals. The data will be used to develop national estimates of the annual error rates and erroneous payments for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program in School Year 2017-18 and to identify strategies for reducing errors. Comments on this record collection can be sent to Desk Officer for Agriculture, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), by emailing OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov, faxing (202) 395-5806, and mailing to Departmental Clearance Office, USDA, OCIO, Mail Stop 7602, Washington, D.C. 20250-7602. Comments are due by July 26, 2017.