Farm Bill excludes funding for CNMI E-NAP

Jun 25, 2018

Saipan Tribune - The 2018 Farm Bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed last Thursday did not include funding for the E-NAP food assistance program in the CNMI.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) affirmed with Saipan Tribune that the five-year Farm Bill the U.S. House passed last week excludes funding for the CNMI E-NAP food assistance program. The CNMI, although not part of the E-NAP program, got $32.5 million in the 2014 Farm Bill.

In a previous interview, Sablan is ultimately eyeing over $42 million in benefits for the CNMI. That would happen once the CNMI is at the same level as Guam in terms of assistance programs.

“…Getting more money in [U.S.] Congress for E-NAP now, when the Commonwealth government still has millions unspent is not possible,” Sablan explained in an email.

He noted that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the CNMI would have an excess of $23 million unspent federal funds by the end of fiscal year 2019.

“That money could be used to make more Marianas households eligible. Lifting the income cap from $17,412 to $25,000 per year, for instance, would help about 2,000 households—retirees, those on fixed incomes or earning low wages,” said Sablan.

Sablan wrote Gov. Ralph DLG Torres in June 12, 2018, urging him to use the money and make “more families eligible” for the program. Sablan claims that when he released data from the USDA early this year, it resulted in the CNMI “lifting E-NAP benefits to the national level.”

“I hope that bringing the issue to the governor’s attention now, again, may convince him to lift household income caps and get food assistance to more who need it,” said Sablan.

In an interview yesterday, Torres said he would be issuing a statement this week after further review of the Farm Bill.

The new Farm Bill also includes a provision that bans cockfighting in the U.S., including the its territories like the CNMI and Guam.

The 2018 Farm Bill now heads to the U.S. Senate.

According to Christina Sablan, Delegate Sablan’s deputy communications director and outreach coordinator, changes made to the Farm Bill, which may include appropriating funds for the NMI, would have to originate from the U.S. Senate.

According to a statement from the Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU), the U.S. House passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (also known as the Farm Bill) on a mostly party-line vote of 213 to 211.

Last month, Bordallo took to the House floor with her colleagues Rep. Stacey E. Plaskett (D-USVI) and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) to oppose this federal ban on cockfighting, describing it as federal overreach.

This is the second vote House Republicans have held on the 2018 Farm Bill, after the first vote failed by a vote of 198-213, due to universal opposition from Democrats over cuts to federal nutrition programs like SNAP (commonly known as food stamps). Some conservative Republicans voted against the Farm Bill in May, demanding that the House first vote on hardline anti-immigration legislation. 

The House-passed 2018 Farm Bill will be re-worked into a compromise Farm Bill with the U.S. Senate, after the Senate passes its own version of the Farm Bill (S.3042, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018).

“Bordallo has made clear to the Senate Agriculture Committee that she strongly opposes any effort to impose the federal cockfighting ban on U.S. territories without our consent,” the statement adds.

The version of the 2018 Farm Bill (S.3042) reported by the Senate Agriculture Committee on June 28, 2018, does not include provisions imposing the federal cockfighting ban on U.S. territories. However, any senator may offer such an amendment to the bill (S.3042) on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

“In addition to gutting food stamps for our neediest families in this Farm Bill, House Republicans chose to override Guam’s local laws regulating cockfighting and backhand U.S. territories in a way they would never attempt for the 50 states. Forcing this ban on Guam and the other territories against our will and without even allowing us a vote on the House floor is paternalistic and deeply unfair,” said Bordallo. “All five members of Congress from the territories strongly oppose this federal cockfighting ban and were never consulted on this provision. I have made clear to the U.S. Senate that the territories oppose any highhanded effort to override our local laws.”