The National Grocers Association (NGA) "applauded" the first draft of the 2018 Farm Bill, which House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway introduced on Thursday.
The proposed bill would, among other things, revise the SNAP benefits program to impose stricter work requirements—an element Conway argued would help to move people off of food assistance while federal budgets contract, but is expected to face opposition from Democrats. The bill did not include mention of the "Blue Apron-type" revisions that would send SNAP recipients a portion of their benefits in nonperishable foods. Retailers strongly objected to that proposal, which was suggested in the president's proposed budget earlier this year.
NGA CEO Peter Larkin called the move by Conaway an "important first step in reauthorizing the farm bill.
"America’s independent supermarket operators are an essential stakeholder in the federal government’s largest safety net program," he said.
Larkin said NGA encourages members of Congress to "preserve the strong public-private partnership between retailers and the federal government that has made the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) a success by continuing to oppose new fees, reporting mandates or other costly administrative burdens on retailers.
"The Agriculture Committees have done a lot of initial work upfront, and we look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders in both the House and Senate to ensure the voice of the independent supermarket industry is represented," he said.
Earlier this week, more than 200 retailers, wholesalers and food industry state association executives, including Larkin, met in Washington, D.C., for the annual Day in Washington fly-in, in which the SNAP public-private partnership was heavily discussed.
The conversation included The Bipartisan Policy Center's SNAP report, which received outcry from retailers due to its suggestion to impose additional fees on food retailers and collect and report store-level sales data on products purchased with SNAP funds.
“Our industry is transforming, and our members’ participation in the policymaking process has arguably never been more important,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI, at the time of the fly-in. “Congress needs to hear firsthand examples from the food retail industry, as a direct witness to the behavioral, social and economic changes affecting the ways consumers shop for food—namely how the influences of technology, privacy and the shifts in consumer values affect their businesses.”