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Wright, Schrier Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Farmers, Increase Fresh Food WIC Purchases

May 6, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Ron Wright (R-TX) and Congresswoman Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA) have introduced bipartisan legislation that will give Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) recipients the ability to purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables at a time when families are hungry and farmers have lost a lot of their supply chain markets.

“I grew up milking cows on a dairy farm outside Azle, Texas. I know how hard it can be for farmers and ranchers across the country when they can't sell their products to grocers and restaurants. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the food supply chain making it difficult for agricultural businesses to move their supply and equally challenging for consumers to have access to high quality produce," said Rep. Wright. "I am proud to have introduced this bipartisan legislation with my colleague Congresswoman Kim Schrier that provides a win-win solution for WIC participants and farmers alike. When we work together with our agriculture communities, we can keep America fed and fueled as we continue to battle this virus.”

“The WIC program is fundamental to getting nutritious food to young children and pregnant women during important times of development,” said Rep. Schrier. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made it riskier to get groceries, especially for families who usually go every few days. Additionally, farmers and growers have found many of the businesses that purchase their food closed while they sit on tremendous quantities of freshly picked produce. This bill will help women and children to continue to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables during a time when staying healthy is very important. And it will increase demand for these products at a time when farmers can use the help. One more great benefit of early exposure to fruits and vegetables is that it sets the stage for healthy food choices later in life, which will pay off many fold in the prevention of chronic illness.”

The WIC Benefit Flexibility During COVID-19 Act (HR 6726) will allow states to increase WIC cash value vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables to $35 until Sept. 30th, 2020. States will need simply to request the waiver from the Secretary of Agriculture for the vouchers to automatically go to WIC recipients. It is that simple.

“By now, we are all well aware that the fallout from the coronavirus has brought immense challenges to those who are food insecure, including those who have recently fallen on hard times. This legislation is an extraordinary step in recognizing that the current WIC benefit for fruits and vegetables is simply inadequate in helping young children and their mothers access enough fruits and vegetables to meet dietary recommendations and prevent diet-related chronic disease. We thank Congresswoman Kim Schrier and Congressman Ron Wright for their leadership on this important issue that will have a positive impact on both public health and fruit and vegetable growers,” said Tom Stenzel, President & CEO, United Fresh Produce Association.

“With the COVID-19 crisis disrupting the nation’s food supply chain, this proposal is a smart step. It assures access to healthy fruits and vegetables for pregnant women and families with young children and provides produce growers an improved market,” said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President & CEO of the National WIC Association (NWA). “Increasing WIC’s fruit and vegetable Cash Value Benefit (CVB) builds on decades of NWA’s work to improve the nutritional quality of WIC-approved foods and was most recently recommended by the National Academies of Sciences in 2017. This bill’s temporary increase incorporates evidence-based nutrition recommendations while also responding to the immediate needs of WIC shoppers, producers, and retailers in the midst of a public health emergency. We thank Reps. Kim Schrier and Ron Wright for advancing this measure to directly address stocking challenges, enhance the purchasing power of WIC shoppers, and improve the cash flow of fruit and vegetable farmers.”