When most people hear the words “Farm Bill” they generally would not think that the largest and most expensive title in the omnibus piece of legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food programs is “Nutrition.” The Farm Bill is an omnibus bill which is enacted around every five years, governing areas such as Federal Crop Insurance, Rural Development, farm subsidies, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and more. The most recent Farm Bill, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, expired in 2023, but was extended until the end of Fiscal Year 2024. In anticipation of the expiration of the extension, three proposals have been released – one in the House of Representatives and two in the U.S. Senate. This article is part of an ongoing series that focuses on different themes in the three released 2024 Farm Bill proposals. Specifically, this article focuses on the proposed Nutrition titles.


An omnibus bill, like the Farm Bill, is a single bill with multiple, often diverse policy proposals. The Farm Bill contains a dozen separate Titles including Horticulture, Forestry, Energy, Credit, Rural Development, Commodity Programs, and Nutrition, among others.  It authorizes most programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Farm Bill’s creation is under the jurisdiction of both the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

In recent weeks, both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees released proposals for the 2024 Farm Bill. On May 17, 2024, the House released a proposal with full bill text. The bill went through the markup process and was passed by the Committee on May 24, 2024. Subsequently, both the Senate Majority and Minority released competing proposed farm bill frameworks, but neither has released proposal with actual bill text, nor has a version of either bill been introduced in committee. One key area in each proposal, and the focus of this article is the Thrifty Food Plan.

Substantive Policy Proposals

House Proposal

On May 17, 2024, House Committee on Agriculture Chair G.T. Thompson (R-PA) released his proposed Farm Bill titled the “Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024.” Unlike the released proposals from both the Senate Ag Majority and Minority, the House proposal is the full bill text. About a week later, the bill was passed by the committee on a bipartisan basis, receiving a “yes” vote from all Republican committee members and four Democratic committee members. Chairman Thompson has stated his intention is to bring the bill to a floor vote in September. To read a detailed breakdown of the House Farm Bill proposal, click here.

The House bill would increase funding for multiple USDA nutrition assistance programs, such as Community Food Projects, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program. The proposal allows for the codification of the Elderly Simplified Application Project, authorizes certain States to directly buy commodities for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, and permits the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into self-determination contracts with Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations to operationalize SNAP. The bill creates SNAP participation access for individuals who were previously denied, such as past drug offenders, and encourages the creation of a pathway for Puerto Rico residents to participate in SNAP. The bill allows the income of young adults to be excluded from total household SNAP eligibility if the young adult is enrolled in secondary school and under the age of 21 and excludes payment or earnings from specific on-the-job training programs to be included in SNAP eligibility determinations.

Additionally, the House bill reiterates the need for nutrition education by requiring the creation of resource materials for healthcare professionals to give their patients about SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs, creating a mechanism for annual reporting from USDA on the diet quality of both SNAP participants and non-participants, and expanding the dairy incentive and school meals program by including full-fat fluid milk. Last, the House bill seeks to crack down on fraud and abuse in the administration of SNAP by mandating USDA use the National Accuracy Clearinghouse to reduce cases of duplicative participation across states, creating an office of program integrity within the Food Nutrition Service (FNS) agency of the USDA, eliminating any threshold for erroneous payments, and incentivizing states to recoup fraudulently obtained benefits by permitting reinvestment of those funds in State’s own integrity practices, technologies, and program administration.

Senate Majority Proposal

On May 1, 2024, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee released a section-by-section framework proposal, titled the “Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act.” As noted, the actual text of her bill has not been released. Click here to read an overview of the Senate Majority’s proposed Nutrition title.

While there are differences between the Senate Majority proposal and the House bill, there are some similarities. For example, both include provisions abolishing the prohibition against individuals with past drug offenses from receiving SNAP and establish paths for allowing residents of Puerto Rico to participate in SNAP. Additionally, both proposals include provisions increasing funding for programs that fight food insecurity among seniors; authorizing tribal organizations to enter into self-determination contracts to purchase agricultural commodities; requiring USDA and HHS to develop materials for health care professionals to be able to inform patients about nutrition assistance programs; and creating mechanisms to cut down on abuse and fraud in the state administration of SNAP.  Differing from the House bill, the Senate Majority proposal would exempt college students under the age of 24 that have aged out of foster care from being restricted from participating in SNAP and creates a provision excluding the basic allowance for military housing from counting in SNAP income.

Senate Minority Proposal

On June 11, 2024, Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, released his framework proposal for the 2024 Farm Bill. Like the Senate Majority proposal, the released document did not contain bill text. Specifically, the Republican framework included a one-page summary of priorities for the Nutrition title.

The Senate Minority proposal includes specific priorities for curbing abuse and fraud in the administration of SNAP such as requiring all payment errors to be reported in the quality control process, requiring states to return and recoup SNAP overpayments due to household fraud, and providing staffing flexibilities to alleviate state staffing shortages.  The proposal includes provisions allowing all forms of fruit and vegetables to be eligible under the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, establishing the Dairy Nutrition Incentive Program, and bolsters Buy American requirements across nutrition programs.

The Thrifty Food Plan Debate

As noted, a key area of debate within each Farm Bill proposal is the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP).

Background on TFP

According to USDA, the TFP is the “cost of groceries needed to provide a healthy, budget-conscious diet for a family of four.” The TFP uses a representative “reference” family, defined as an adult male and female ages 20-50 and two children ages 6-8 and 9-11, to determine the estimate of feeding a nutritious, practical, and cost-effective diet prepared at home. The TFP is the lowest cost of the four food plans USDA develops. The other three are the Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal Food Plans. Specifically, the TFP determines the amount of SNAP benefits a household can receive based on both their income and family status. Though the TFP was established in 1975, and updated in 1983, 1999, and 2006, each previous plan adjusted the TFP value for inflation, but otherwise remained cost neutral. This means that until the latest update in 2021, the TFP value remained essentially equal to the value of the plan in 1975.

The 2018 Farm Bill included a provision directing the USDA to reevaluate the TFP by 2022 and every subsequent five years. In addition, the Farm Bill required that the reevaluation be based on current food prices, food composition data, consumption patterns, and dietary guidance. Prior to this, the TFP had only been updated at the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture and had only been adjusted for inflation. In 2021, USDA’s Food Nutrition Service (FNS) published a reevaluated TFP which increased the average SNAP benefit by $36.24 per person, per month for Fiscal Year 2022. To read more about the 2021 TFP update, click here to view NALC article “USDA Updates the Thrifty Food Plan.”

The Current Debate

A key area of the current Farm Bill debate is the reevaluation and cost adjustment process for the TFP. Because of the 2021 update to TFP and the resulting increase of benefits SNAP participants are receiving, the projected Farm Bill funding for the Nutrition Title increased to approximately 82% of the total cost of the Farm bill, a 6% increase since the 2018 Farm Bill. The debate plays out in the three 2024 Farm Bill proposals through the inclusion of provisions mandating TFP updates remain cost-neutral for the House bill and Senate Minority proposal, and the inclusion of provisions maintaining the current reevaluation process for the Senate Majority proposal.

Under the Miscellaneous Title of its Farm Bill, the House proposal includes a provision addressing what it calls “Executive branch overreach.” Specifically, this provision is about the 2021 TFP evaluation, and removing the Secretary of Agriculture’s ability to update the TFP on any factor besides inflation. The bill states, “the Secretary may reevaluate the market baskets of the thrifty food plan taking into consideration current food prices, food composition data, consumption patterns, and dietary guidance;” however, it later clarifies “the Secretary shall not increase the cost of the thrifty food plan based on a reevaluation.” The proposal requires TFP updates remain cost-neutral but does allow a cost adjustment of the TFP to reflect changes in inflation. Similarly, the Senate Minority framework also expresses the requirement that future TFP updates be “cost-neutral,” and allows for inflation adjustments. This means that under the provisions in these two proposals, the TFP would still be evaluated by the Secretary of Agriculture every five years, but the results of the reevaluation are prohibited from use in adjusting the cost. However, costs may be adjusted every five years for inflation. For example, USDA will be required to conduct a reevaluation of the TFP in 2027, but other than an inflationary adjustment, the cost of the TFP will remain the same as it was following the 2021 update.

Conversely, the Senate Majority’s Nutrition title summary highlights its commitment to maintain the current TFP reevaluation standards and the Secretary’s ability to use the reevaluation results to adjust the TFP cost every five years. Under this proposal, the TFP will be required to undergo a reevaluation every five years, based on factors such as a consideration of current food prices, food composition data, consumption patterns, and dietary guidance, and the USDA must use the results of the reevaluation to adjust the cost of TFP. The Senate Majority believes that making a cost adjustment on factors other than just inflation “reflects the realities of how Americans buy and prepare food.”

Proponents of the Senate Majority position believe that prohibiting the use of reevaluation factors to adjust the TFP cost takes money away from food insecure Americans by cutting SNAP benefits. However, proponents of the House bill and Senate Minority position argue that this provision will not cut nor decrease SNAP benefits. They argue it is merely a reassertion of the Congressional intent for a cost-neutral TFP update process and the prevention of Executive abuse in expanding or decimating future SNAP benefits.


The 2023 farm bill is nearing its expiration date, and the House, the Senate Majority, and the Senate Minority have each released a proposal highlighting their policy goals. The House proposal includes bill text and was advanced through committee. While both the Senate Majority and Minority proposals do not contain bill text and have not been introduced. Though the three proposals do share substance similarities, they differ most strongly when it comes to the TFP. The House bill and Senate Minority wish to create a cost-neutral TFP update process, while the Senate Majority wishes to keep the reevaluation standards as they currently are.


For more information on Nutrition Programs, click here to view NALC Nutrition Programs Reading Room

For more information on themes in the 2024 Farm Bill Proposals, click here to view NALC article “Farm Bill 2024: Themes in the Crop Insurance Title”