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Farm Bill

What is the Farm Bill?

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (Pub.L. 110-234, H.R. 2419, 122 Stat. 923) is commonly referred to as the Farm Bill. Covering a wide range of food and farming programs, the bill is renegotiated and voted upon by the Congress roughly every five years and is due for reauthorization in 2012. Title IV of the Farm Bill covers nutrition and commodity distribution programs affecting the poor, seniors, children and low-income families: SNAP (food stamps), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and select grant programs. The House Agriculture Committee and the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry committee have jurisdiction over the Farm Bill.

2008 Farm Bill Funding

     Nutrition: 66.5%
   Commodities: 14.6%
   Conservation: 8.5%
   Crop Insurance: 7.7%
   Other: 1.4%
   Disaster Assistance: 1.3%

Source: Congressional Research Service Report, “What Is the “Farm Bill”?

What is CAFB's position on the Farm Bill?

The Farm Bill directly affects CAFB's ability to help end hunger.  Programs like SNAP help keep families nourished so CAFB can focus on providing emergency food for those who still need help but do not qualify for the program. TEFAP provides CAFB with approximately 25 percent of food distributed to the community. A strong farm bill is the nation's best and most efficient defense against hunger and nutrition-related illness. Our top priorities are to

  • strengthen the hunger safety net
  • improve access to healthy foods within low-income and vulnerable populations
  • improve emergency food relief programs responsiveness in times of need

SNAP/Food Stamps:

What is it? SNAP is the cornerstone of the nutrition safety net, providing over 46 million low-income participants with monthly benefits via a grocery debit card. Eligibility is based on household income and assets and is subject to work and citizenship requirements. SNAP is one of the most responsive safety net programs, expanding quickly to meet rising need during the recession. The program is targeted at our most vulnerable; 76% of SNAP households contain a child, senior or disabled member, and 84% of all benefits go to these households.  

As the number of people unemployed grew 110% from 2007 to 2010, SNAP responded with a 53% increase in participation over the same period. As the economy slowly recovers and unemployment begins to fall, SNAP participation and costs can be expected to decline.

The SNAP accuracy rate of 96.19% (FY10) is an all-time program high. SNAP error rates declined by 61% from FY1999 to FY2010, from 9.86% to a record low of 3.81%. 

SNAP benefits supplement a household’s food budget but are insufficient to last most participants through the month, causing many participants to rely regularly on food banks.

The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $731 and countable resources of $333, consists of 2.2 persons, and participates in the program for 9 months. The average household receives a monthly benefit of $287, or about $1.49 per person per meal.


  • Oppose proposals to cap or reduce funding, restrict eligibility or reduce benefits.
  • Support proposals to increase benefit adequacy to ensure that households have the resources to purchase a nutritionally adequate diet.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP):  

What is it? TEFAP is a means-tested federal program that provides food commodities at no cost to Americans in need of short-term hunger relief through organizations like food banks, pantries, soup kitchens and emergency shelters. Nutritious food commodities provided through TEFAP are an essential resource for food banks. As the demand for food remains high at food banks across the country, a continuous stream of TEFAP funding is necessary for the provision of a steady emergency food supply.


  • Make mandatory funding for TEFAP food more responsive to changes in need by providing a trigger that ties funding to unemployment levels.
  • Enhance the Secretary of Agriculture's authority to purchase bonus commodities in times of high need for emergency food relief in addition to times of low commodity prices so the program is responsive both to excess supply and excess demand.
  • Reauthorize funding for TEFAP Storage and Distribution Funds at $100 million per year and TEFAP Infrastructure Grants at $15 million per year.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP):

What is it? CSFP leverages government buying power to provide nutritious food packages to approximately 599,000 low income people each month. Nearly 97 percent of program participants are seniors with incomes of less than 130% of the poverty line (approximately $14,000 for a senior living alone). While the cost to USDA to purchase commodities for this package of food is about $20 per month, the average retail value of the foods in the package is $50. CSFP food packages, specifically designed to supplement nutrients typically lacking in participants' diets like protein, iron and zinc, can play an important role in addressing the nutrition needs of low-income seniors. Many seniors participating in CSFP are able to have their food boxes delivered directly to their homes or to senior centers nearby, an important benefit for those who are homebound, have limited mobility or do not have convenient access to a grocery store.


  • Transition CSFP to a seniors-only program, by phasing out eligibility of women, infants and children while grandfathering in current participants. 
  • Support CSFP at FY 2012 caseload levels by allocating $186.9 million in the FY2013 Agriculture Appropriations Act.

New Opportunities in the Farm Bill

Farm bill legislation also includes bills aimed at improving access to and increasing purchases of local, healthy foods by low-income populations.

The Expanding Access to Farmers Markets Act (S. 1593)

The bill amends the Food Stamp Act to ensure that wireless Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) terminals will be available at farmers' markets and non-traditional retailers (e.g.: mobile green carts, produce delivery programs, farm subscription programs) so that they may be able to accept SNAP benefits.

WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program Priorities:

  • Increase funding to $100 million annually.
  • Eliminate the state match requirement for both programs.

USDA Non-discrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication and Compliance, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 40250-9410 or call (402) 260-1026,(866) 632-9992(toll free), or (402) 401-0216 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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