Congress Passes Farm Bill with Broad Bipartisan Support
Reauthorizes Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) To Scale Access to Healthy Food in Underserved Communities Across the U.S.
Statement from PolicyLink, Reinvestment Fund, and The Food Trust
December 13, 2018 – Yesterday with wide bipartisan support, Congress passed The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (also known as the Farm Bill), which reauthorizes and expands the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) at the United States Department of Agriculture. In addition to providing healthy food for families, the bipartisan bill supports farmers and agricultural economy, invests in small towns and rural communities and supports local food economies.
We are grateful for the hard work of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Ranking member Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX-11) and Ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN-07) for stewarding this bill to completion before the end of the year.
The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 is a multi-year bill that legislates policies and authorizes programs for food and nutrition aid, agriculture, trade, and marketing programs, rural development assistance, and other programs. The HFFI program is a key strategy within the Farm Bill’s multi-faceted approach to improve the food environment and advance community well-being. HFFI, along with other measures, will diversify the nation’s agricultural economy, invest in land and water conservation, create new opportunities in small towns and rural communities, and protect food access for families. In authorizing the new bill, Congress also affirmed the importance of supporting healthy food access for nearly 40 million low-income Americans, regardless of work status.
“We applaud the passage of the Farm Bill and the inclusion of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which will expand access to healthy food, particularly for low-income communities and communities of color,” said Michael McAfee, President and CEO of PolicyLink. “This provision is a powerful step towards ensuring that the 106 million people in the United States at or near poverty—one in every three—can live in healthy communities of opportunity with access to healthy food.”
The new bill expands HFFI investments beyond retail to food enterprises, building on the existing program that seeks to bring healthy food and jobs to communities nationwide. PolicyLink, Reinvestment Fund, and The Food Trust, along with local, state, and national healthy food advocates, have been working for many years to expand healthy food access in underserved areas throughout the U.S. The expansion to include food enterprises allows for a broader array of investment opportunities in communities where food access challenges are at the most extreme. We would like to especially thank our HFFI sponsors Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representatives Dwight Evans (D-PA-03) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) for being such strong advocates of this program.
“We commend members of Congress for reauthorizing the Farm Bill and reaffirming their commitment to creating healthier, more equitable food systems across America,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, CEO of Reinvestment Fund, which is the National Fund Manager for HFFI. “We look forward to building on the successes of the program and expanding its reach to food enterprises working to improve access to healthy foods in underserved areas, to create and preserve quality jobs, and to revitalize low-income communities.”
“There are still far too many places in America where the simple act of purchasing healthy food for your family is out of reach,” said Yael Lehmann, President and CEO of The Food Trust. “The Healthy Food Financing Initiative will help to make fresh healthy food more accessible for low-income families and steer investment into urban and rural communities in dire need.”
In addition to the program at USDA, HFFI has also been supported at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Since 2010, HFFI has helped leverage more than $220 million in grants and an estimated $1 billion in additional financing. It has also supported nearly 1,000 grocery and other healthy food retail projects in more than 35 states across the country, revitalizing economies, creating jobs, and improving health.
A complete copy of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 is available at https://www.agriculture.senate.gov/2018-farm-bill. For information on HFFI at the USDA, please visit www.investinginfood.com.