FoodScan Oct. 28, 2013
Editor’s Note: With the NYS Legislature in recess, look for the November 11th edition of FoodScan in two weeks.
GMO LABELING RANKED TOP NYS ISSUE AT FIA’S ANNUAL GR COMMITTEE PLANNING MEETING. On Wednesday, October 16th, FIA’s Government Relations Committee met for its annual planning meeting and unanimously ranked mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO) as the number one issue for the 2014 session of the NYS Legislature. In making the ranking, the Committee took no “pro-con” position on the topic of GMO labeling but stressed that the issue must not be state-specific. Rather, it should but addressed at the federal level so as not to impede interstate commerce. This priority ranking also underscores the importance of New York State as the “linchpin” for other Northeast states to follow suit — especially Connecticut. Connecticut already has passed a GMO labeling law but it only is “triggered” if New York State approves a GMO bill. Other items ranked by the Committee include: Proactive – Plastic Bag Bans; Wage Theft Reporting Reform; Organized Retail Crime; Emergency SNAP (D-SNAP Waivers) and WIC Substitutions; and WIC License Timing ~ Defensive – Paid Family Leave; Privacy/Consumer Tracking/Digital; “Bottle Law” Expansion. As usual, setting the agenda and tone for the next NYS legislative session will be Governor Cuomo’s early January “State of the State” address and the presentation of his 2014-15 fiscal year Executive Budget to the Legislature later in the month. The Governor’s budget will dictate the parameters for much of the 2014 legislative agenda.
Effects of Federal Government Shutdown Linger with the Processing of SNAP and WIC Programs. In the aftermath of the recent shutdown of the federal government, the SNAP program is experiencing lingering difficulties in accepting, processing and updating retailer applications — but making progress. According to USDA’s Food & Nutrition Services, as it gears-up to resume normal operations, FNS has limited ability to focus on specific inquiries. In an October 21st email to FIA, FNS noted several benchmarks, as follows: (1) SNAP Retailer Management internal systems were fully operational as of October 21st; (2) the SNAP Retailer Service Center (call center) should be answering calls as of October 23rd; (3) the Retailer Service Center team has been assessing pending applications, matching-up mail that had been at USPS during the shutdown, and completing preliminary intake functions; (4) Retailer Operations Specialists have resumed work on applications that had moved beyond the preliminary processing stage prior to the shutdown; and (5) the SNAP retailer application site became available on October 22nd and accessed at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/application-process.htm [note: see the following companion article for other services offered via this same website]. FNS cautiously explained that it anticipates an uptick in the short-term volume of applications submitted, resulting in a likely backlog, as well as call volume quickly exceeding capacity at the SNAP Retailer Service Center. Additionally, since WIC approval is based on prior SNAP authorization, the WIC process also has been slowed. Should there be an extenuating need during FNS’s “recovery period,” FNS asks retailers to contact either Joe Minniti, FNS Deputy Director of Retailer Operations, at Joseph.Minniti@fns.usda.gov, or Andrea Gold, FNS Director of Retailer Policy and Management, at Andrea.Gold@fns.usda.gov.
USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service Makes Website Available to Assist Retailers during Post-Shutdown SNAP Transition. Just recently, Food & Nutrition Service notified FIA that their website http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/application-process.htm could be accessed to further assist retailers as FNS re-establishes its normal operations. FNS specifically detailed the following two important areas: (1) In lieu of calling the Retailer Service Center, retailers who completed and submitted applications and documentation prior to shutdown are advised to check the current status of their application on-line. This can be accomplished by signing in to the web address [noted above] with the user ID and password selected at the time of application. Note again that documents submitted by USPS mail are still being matched to applications received prior to shutdown; and (2) Participating SNAP retailers who were withdrawn at the end of September due to failure to complete SNAP reauthorization must reapply by submitting an on-line application [noted above] and required documentation.
Reminder — Past Year’s FoodScans Are Archived on the FIA Website for Members Only. Occasionally, FoodScan articles note past editions of FoodScan. For easy reference, FIA’s webpage now includes the past year’s supply of FoodScan for members only. To access past issues, simply go to www.fiany.com and click-on the FoodScan tab along the left margin. On the next page, in the maroon box under “Members Log In,” insert “member” as the Username and “fiany130” as the Password and then click “Log In.”
NYS Spending Declines for Second Straight Year as State Debt Hits Record Level. New York State spending declined for the second straight year in fiscal year 2012-13 while debt reached an all-time high of $63.5 billion, according to the annual report on the Financial Condition of New York State recently released by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. In more relatable terms, NYS sp ending in 2013 was $6,801 per New Yorker. For a copy of the Comptroller’s media release, click here.