(House of Representatives - July 20, 2011)

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[Pages H5246-H5247]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                        WIC ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Farr) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. FARR. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to clarify a mischaracterization 
of the administrative costs of the supplemental nutrition program for 
Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC.
  It's interesting, you can come down here to the floor or speak in 
committee, and we are protected as Members of Congress to say anything 
we want. It isn't required that everything we say is factually correct. 
Sometimes those mischaracterizations, misstatements get into the 
record. And in this case, the complaint or the statement in 
subcommittee and full

[[Page H5247]]

committee and even in debate here on the floor of the Agriculture 
appropriations bill, it was asserted that the administrative costs in 
this program are up to 40 percent of the total cost of WIC, this is a 
misstatement of fact, although it was included in the report language 
and it was adopted by the committee.
  So I come today to point out that the 40 percent administrative cost 
claimed by the majority is based on selective data from a 2008 
Brookings Institute report. It didn't come from the Department of 
Agriculture, which administers the program. The Brookings report 
collapsed several legislative mandated nonmonetary programs, including 
the education of nutrition, the requirement that we support and inform 
people on how to do proper breast feeding, other client services, 
issues like health care referrals, even immunization screenings, these 
were counted as administrative costs when they are mandated by us in 
Congress to be carried out. They are programmatic costs, and it wasn't 
proper for the Brookings report to include those as administrative 
  Breast feeding, nutrition education, and immunization screening are 
vital programs which improve birth outcomes and reduce the incidence of 
health problems for WIC participants. They should not be categorized as 
administrative costs for the purpose of budgeting.
  So today, I would like to point out in a recent letter to our 
Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations, of which I am the ranking 
member, from the Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Vilsack, and I 
will include this letter at the end of my comments today, he notes that 
the food and nutrition service delivers its program management and 
actual administrative costs at a steady 9.09 percent rate, far less 
than the 40 percent purported in the Brookings Institute report and 
included in the committee report.
  WIC is effective in improving the health of pregnant women, new 
mothers and their infants. I feel it is important to clarify that the 
WIC program is meeting its mission. It is meeting the law to safeguard 
the health of low-income women, infants, and children who are at 
nutrition risk by providing nutritional food and supplemental diets and 
information on healthy eating and referrals to other health care 
  As Members of Congress, we should not do the program any further 
disservice by erroneous figures being included in the report. So today, 
Mr. Speaker, I insert in the Record the letter from Secretary Vilsack 
pointing this out and to make the record clear that the WIC program is 
indeed being administered very soundly and fiscally conservatively.

                                                U.S. Department of


                                    Washington, DC, July 14, 2011.
     Hon. Sam Farr,
     Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural 
         Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related 
         Agencies, House of Representatives, Longworth House 
         Office Building, Washington, DC.
       Dear Congressman Farr: Thank you for your work on behalf of 
     the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) appropriations for 
     fiscal year (FY) 2012. I appreciate the difficult decisions 
     and choices that were before you and the Committee.
       As identified in the Statement of Administration Policy, 
     the Administration has serious concerns with H.R. 2112; 
     however, I wanted to weigh in specifically on what I perceive 
     as misstatements regarding administrative costs for the 
     Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and 
     Children (WIC). I understand that during full committee 
     debate and on page 43 of the committee report, selected data 
     from a 2008 Brookings Institute report were referenced, 
     giving the impression that administrative costs in the WIC 
     Program are over 40 percent of Federal expenditures for the 
     program. The true figure is much lower.
       Beyond simply providing assistance in the form of 
     supplemental food benefits, WIC provides low-income mothers, 
     infants, and children with other legislatively mandated non-
     monetary program benefits, including nutrition education, 
     breastfeeding support, and other client services such as 
     healthcare referrals and immunization screening, which 
     improve birth outcomes and reduce the incidence of health 
     problems for WIC participants. The Brookings Institute report 
     collapses these important additional benefits under the 
     category of administrative costs. However, these 
     legislatively mandated program benefits provided to 
     participants should not be classified as administrative 
       For reference, I asked USDA's Food and Nutrition Service to 
     provide me with a breakdown of the Federal cost of food 
     benefits, non-monetary program benefits and administrative 
     expenses for FY 2010. I am sharing this information with you 
     to correct the record and so that you can share it with your 

                                                         Percentage of
             Category                  Obligations        obligations
Supplemental Food Benefits........     $4,561,570,027             70.44%
Nutrition Services and Admin.
    Additional Benefits:
        Nutrition Education.......        418,437,331              6.46%
        Breastfeeding Support.....        149,133,594              2.30%
        Other Client Services.....        758,015,711             11.70%
    Program Management............        588,984,767              9.09%
            Total Nutrition             1,914,571,403             29.56%
             Services & Admin.
            Total Food and NSA....      6,476,141,430            100.00%

       I consider the category of program management, which is 
     9.09 percent of total Federal obligations, to be the true 
     measure of administrative costs needed to deliver the 
     complete suite of benefits to WIC participants. This 
     percentage has remained consistent over the past 5 years.
       It is my hope that this will clear up any misunderstanding 
     regarding administrative costs in WIC, and I look forward to 
     working with you in the future. A similar letter is being 
     sent to Congressmen Jack Kingston, Harold Rogers, and Norman 
                                                Thomas J. Vilsack,