Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared at the White House press conference today, May 6, to speak on food and nutrition security. However, he was also asked if the USDA has enough cash to fund its ambitious nutrition agenda and a copper mine in Minnesota. Help for minority farmers and whether they have the authority to start a carbon bank.

Vilsack said he believes the USDA has enough money to pay for free school meals in the 2021-2022 school year. While government lawyers process lawsuits from white farmers against the minority farmer debt relief program, USDA will continue the program, Vilsack said.

When asked if he has the authority to create a carbon bank, Vilsack said the USDA has “tremendous capacity, an enormous set of tools that can be used to provide the resources to work with the farming community to capitalize on this future “but acknowledged that USDA” needs Congressional approval in the sense that you have resources in all of these programs that require funding. “

Vilsack added, “We already have a lot of flexibility at USDA and we will use that flexibility in a way that creates more, new and better markets. And I think farmers will find that very much – they will be very happy with it. “

Vilsack also noted that he and 25 farmers had met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and that Regan had done a “great job”. The meeting took place in Iowa.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted at the briefing that the first political campaign she worked on was Vilsack’s campaign for governor of Iowa in 2002.

In his official remarks, Vilsack told the White House press corps that when the US rescue plan went into effect, hunger had fallen to 14% of the population in the United States, but had fallen to 8% over a six-month period.

“It’s a result of the expansion of SNAP [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] as we did in the American bailout plan; Creation of a Summer EBT program that will allow nearly 30 million children to have access to food during the summer months; Increase our commitment to WIC [the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children];; and basically paying a deposit if you will to reduce hunger, ”said Vilsack.

Vilsack continued, “The American Families Plan includes three key investments in nutrition and food security. First, we will make this incredible and historic effort to feed children during the summer months permanent. As I said earlier, there are nearly 30 million American children who have free and discounted lunch status in schools.

“At the end of the school year, there is no other program than the summer feeding program, which has affected millions of those 30 million children. Now we have the opportunity to give each of these families a card that looks like this, ”he said as he held up a plastic ID.

“This is the summer EBT card that is available. It gives parents the ability to go to a grocery store – just like with their SNAP card – and purchase additional fruits and vegetables, as well as other healthy foods for their children, to ensure that 30 million children have the opportunity to relax during that time feed the summer, which means they are better prepared to go to school ready to study in the fall.

“With these efforts, we are also expanding the ability to influence free school meals in high-poverty school areas by focusing on the Community Eligibility Program, which essentially identifies the ability of a school district where SNAP participation is around 40% to extend free meals to everyone in this school.

“This will increase the opportunities for young people to eat well. And we know from a recent Tufts study that one of the healthiest places in the country for kids to eat is now in American schools. We will see this expand and we will focus – with a specific, laser-like focus – on elementary schools to ensure our youngest learners have the best possible opportunity.

“And finally, with the help and support of Congress, we will invest a billion dollars in strategies that will improve the nutritional value and quality of the meals young people receive even more than schools have done.

“These three steps – these three key investments in the American Families Plan – will allow us to cement the profits from the American Rescue Plan and hopefully affect and reduce hunger to the point where we will one day win.” I don’t have to have a press conference about … about hunger. “