The session that wouldn’t end has finally, and successfully, ended! Following the COVID pandemic hiatus in January and part of February, the legislature was constitutionally able to extend their session from ending in early May to mid-June. They had until June 12th but were able pass the final few of the total 503 new pieces of legislation, on Tuesday evening, June 8th. Everyone can take a deep breath, enjoy the summer, and start preparing for the January start of the next legislative session.
Food systems and food access enjoyed a remarkably successful legislative session. First, as you all know from reading our previous blogs, the $300,000 increase in the Healthy Food Incentive Fund was added to the budget bringing the fund total to $500,000. We are already hard at work dispersing those funds through our Double Up Food Bucks and WIC and Seniors Produce Box programs. We also supported Hunger Free Colorado’s successful effort, which ran to almost the last minute, to get $5 million of the federal pandemic relief funding into the Food Pantry Assistance Grant program to ensure more people who need it will have access to food as we begin the recovery from the pandemic.
Additionally, the two bills we were actively supporting, SB21-199 and SB21-087, passed the legislature and are expected to be signed by the Governor. SB199 eliminates existing barriers for undocumented people to access public services. The effective date of SB199 was pushed out until 2022 to allow the state some time to adjust their systems to comply with the new law. SB87 was heavily amended but ultimately provides some rights and protections for agricultural workers. Many of the bill’s provisions were referred to the Colorado Department of Labor for rule-making that should start in mid to late August. We will keep you all informed of opportunities to weigh in on those rules as they are created and debated.
Finally, several other bills of interest passed this year including additional immigration issues, additional funding for SNAP employment and training which will draw down even more federal dollars, Colorado Proud funding, and loans for beginning farmers to help develop farm to market infrastructure.
There will be no resting on laurels. We are already hard at work developing concepts for the 2022 legislative session to improve our farm and food infrastructure to help all Coloradans recover from the pandemic by ensuring everyone as access to nutritious food.
As our focus sharpens on congressional activities, we are beginning to ramp up our efforts for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill we believe will be coming this year. Several marker bills have been introduced and many of them have sign-on opportunities. We typically send out those opportunities as soon as we get them, and you can also check this space. We will continue to advocate around the Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools set of marker bills.
Additionally, USDA has been holding listening sessions and seeking comments on several issues as they look to revamp operations and create opportunities to alter and improve our agricultural system and its resiliency. Currently, USDA is requesting comments on “Supply Chains for the Production of Agricultural Commodities and Food Products.” The Friends of the Earth and Center for Science in the Public Interest, have developed an organizational sign-on letter that also contains links to the notice in the event you would like to submit your own comments.
We are looking forward to working with all of you through the summer and fall as we continue to develop out Child Nutrition Reauthorization Platform and our 2022 state legislative agenda. In the meantime, stay cool, and enjoy your summer!