Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 Farm Bill Strengthens SNAP-Education, Lacks Focus on Diet Quality

Washington, D.C. - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- The following is a statement on the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force co-chairs former secretaries of agriculture Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D.:

“The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress contains major wins for SNAP-Education, healthy food incentives, and innovative nutrition pilots. These are important issues that are consistent with recommendations by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force released earlier this year. However, we believe more needs to be done in the 116th Congress to make diet quality a priority in the program.

“This legislation directs USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to provide key technical assistance to support states in implementing and evaluating SNAP-Education. Given adequate appropriations, these changes will be a major step towards strengthening the nation’s largest and most important federal nutrition education and obesity prevention program.

“Also commendable in the bipartisan legislation is the funding increase for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI). FINI’s funds increase from $100 million to $250 million over five years. With these additional funds, FINI will be able to support more projects that incentivize fruits and vegetables to SNAP participants. Equally encouraging is the $4 million per year for the new Harvesting Health pilot project to prescribe fruits and vegetables to low-income individuals that suffer from or are at-risk of developing a diet-related health condition. Innovative pilots like this are key to mitigating the costs of the diet-related disease crisis currently threatening our health care system, economy, and national security.

“Among these successes, there were also missed opportunities. Although this new Farm Bill supports fruit and vegetables incentives, research has shown that positive incentives combined with targeted disincentives for foods devoid of nutritional value, like sugar-sweetened beverages, are the most effective way of consistently improving diets. Exploring combined incentives and disincentives can still be done through robust pilots and research.

“Furthermore, we wish the 2018 Farm Bill had made diet-quality an explicit SNAP priority. SNAP’s current core objectives—fiscal integrity and food security—are critically important, but the primary focus of the program should be on nutrition. Luckily, this can still be done through voluntary internal policy change at the USDA, which we would wholeheartedly support.

“Despite these shortcomings, we applaud the committees’ bipartisan work and encourage the 116th Congress to create more bipartisan legislation that improves nutrition, promotes better health outcomes, and reduces healthcare costs while continuing to effectively meet the needs of America’s most vulnerable citizens.”

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Bread for the World Applauds Passage of the Farm Bill

AEM Hails Farm Bill Passage

Association of Equipment Manufacturers

Washington, D.C. - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) issued the following statement praising Congress’s passage of the 2018 Farm Bill:

“This is a win-win for the 1.3 million men and women of our industry and the broader U.S. economy,” said John Lagemann, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Deere & Company and AEM Chair. “Farm policies have a major impact on the health of the agriculture economy, which is a key driver of equipment manufacturing employment. We applaud Congress on its bipartisan effort to pass this much-needed legislation and look forward to President Trump signing the 2018 Farm Bill into law.”

The 2018 Farm Bill now heads to White House for President Trump’s signature.

"The U.S. agriculture economy is the backbone of rural America, which underscores why passing pro-agriculture and pro-manufacturing policies are so important,” said Dennis Slater, president of AEM. “By signing the 2018 Farm Bill, President Trump will help preserve and expand programs important to the health of the farm economy and strengthen the U.S. agriculture equipment industry.”

Earlier this year, AEM sent Members of the U.S Senate a letter urging elected officials to pass the bill by highlighting the strong connection farm tractor and combine sales have with farm net cash income and showing how amendments harming crop insurance could negatively impact the agricultural economy.

The Agriculture Improvement Act includes the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018, which is designed to improve rural broadband infrastructure, as well as policies that support production agriculture, conservation programs, research, expansion to foreign markets, and crop insurance – which helps protect up to 298 million acres of farmland a year.

There are 320,000 agricultural equipment manufacturing workers in the U.S. and the agricultural equipment manufacturing industry generates $102 billion in sales activity each year.

Funding the wall is a national security priority, ALG launches

Washington, D.C. - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement urging Congress to work on funding the southern border wall in the December spending bill:

“Funding the wall is a national security priority that can no longer be ignored. It is quite frankly absurd that Republicans in Congress have punted this issue for almost two years always claiming that they would get to ‘tomorrow’. Now there is no tomorrow. Congress should appropriate the funds necessary to build the wall and secure the border using a lockbox to ensure that future Congresses cannot rescind that decision. The truth is that if Republicans in Congress had fought for and won wall funding during the past two years, the nation would not find itself with Nancy Pelosi ready to become House Speaker in 2019. Failed leadership on the nation’s priorities caused a failed campaign in November by Republicans. Now the GOP has one last chance to get it right and if the Democrats choose to shut down the government in protest, that decision is on their heads.

“To support building the wall, Americans for Limited Government has launched to urge activists to contact Congress now.”


“Don’t back down on the gov’t shutdown and the wall, Mr. President,” By Robert Romano, Dec. 12, 2018

Small modular nuclear reactors cut costs for a diverse portfolio

American Public Power Association
December 12, 2018
Recent scholarly studies cast doubt on whether wind and solar power alone can address global climate change without support from nuclear power.

One of the reports, “The Future of Nuclear Power in a Carbon-Constrained World,” written by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, acknowledges concerns about the costs of nuclear power but says that a generation portfolio that does not include nuclear power, particularly new, alternative nuclear technologies, could ultimately raise the cost of fighting global climate change.


HHS seeks input on how to improve HIPAA rules

American Hospital Association

Washington, D.C. - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights will accept comments through Feb. 11 on potential changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules to promote coordinated, value-based care, according to a request for information released today.

In addition to broad input on the HIPAA rules, the RFI seeks comments on specific areas of the Privacy Rule, including encouraging information-sharing for treatment and care coordination; facilitating parental involvement in care; addressing the opioid crisis and serious mental illness; accounting for disclosures of protected health information; and changing the requirement for certain providers to make a good faith effort to obtain an acknowledgment of receipt of the Notice of Privacy Practices.

“In addressing the opioid crisis, we’ve heard stories about how the Privacy Rule can get in the way of patients and families getting the help they need,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. “We’ve also heard how the Rule may impede other forms of care coordination that can drive value. I look forward to hearing from the public on potential improvements to HIPAA, while maintaining the important safeguards for patients’ health information.”

The AHA plans to submit comments.

Christian teacher fired for not caving to transgender student demands

American Family Association
December 12, 2018
According to, a teacher at West Point High School in Virginia was fired just last Thursday over his religious objections to using male pronouns when referring to a student who is biologically female but identifies as male.


Court orders end to abortion-pill mandate for six Christian organizations

Alliance Defending Freedom

Denver, CO - December 12, 2018 - (The Ponder News) -- A federal district court issued an order Tuesday that permanently prevents the federal government from enforcing the Affordable Care Act’s abortion-pill mandate against six Christian organizations represented by Alliance Defending Freedom. The order also declares that the mandate violates the organizations’ rights protected by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The previous administration’s mandate forces most employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception through their health plans under threat of heavy penalties. The current administration’s Department of Justice abandoned its defense of the flawed mandate.

“Religious organizations have the freedom to peacefully operate according to their beliefs without the threat of punishment by the government. Tuesday’s order fully affirms that freedom and provides permanent protection from the mandate,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor.

“These faith-based organizations no longer have to fear being forced to pay fines for simply abiding by the Christian beliefs that they teach and espouse, and they are no longer required to fill out forms authorizing coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization,” Baylor explained. “The government has many other ways to ensure access to these items without forcing people of faith to violate their deepest convictions.”

The six organizations—Association of Christian Schools International, Samaritan Ministries International, Taylor University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Asbury Theological Seminary, and ADF—specifically object to providing coverage for abortifacients.

“First, plaintiffs have demonstrated that requiring them to comply with [the mandate], to the extent such compliance conflicts with plaintiffs’ sincerely held religious beliefs, violates plaintiffs’ rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act…. Second, plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm unless defendants are enjoined from interfering with plaintiffs’ practice of their religious beliefs.…,” the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado wrote in its order in Association of Christian Schools International v. Azar, adding that “the public interest in the vindication of religious freedom favors the entry of a permanent injunction.”

Other federal district courts have issued similar orders in recent months for Christian organizations in Oklahoma, Indiana, California, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida. ADF attorneys and allied attorneys continue to litigate numerous other lawsuits against the mandate.