The House of Representatives recently passed an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill which will improve the United States’ international food aid. The amendment, authored by U.S. Representative and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-CA), provides funds for the Local and Regional Purchase Program. This program allows the U.S. to buy food closer to afflicted areas and reduce transit time and costs as a result. Representative Royce’s amendment provides $10 million for the program and reduces fundraising for the Agricultural Marketing Services which utilizes taxpayer money to administer food advertising campaigns. In a statement about the amendment’s passage, Royce stated, “It is crucial that the United States has the tools to respond to humanitarian crises while stretching our food aid dollars further.”
It is estimated that 925 million people globally suffer from malnutrition and hunger. That number is roughly three times the size of the U.S. population and a strong indication that hunger is a global health risk. The World Bank estimates that 44 million people have been impoverished since mid-2010 due to recent increases in food prices. This estimation coincides with shrinking foreign aid budgets among developed countries — a result of both fiscal conservatism and slow recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.
Goal one of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals established in 2000 is the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. This goal came after the Food Aid Convention of 1999 which served as a formal agreement among donor countries to contribute to world food security. It also established minimum annual commitments among member countries. The U.S., with an annual commitment of 2,500,000 metric tons, has the largest commitment.
In fiscal year 2009 alone the U.S. provided $2.9 billion in food assistance to developing countries, which included approximately 2.8 million metric tons of food which reached 70 million people.
The recently-passed amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill is a strong indicator that many of the leading political figures in the U.S. are willing to maintain this level of international support. However, as the global economy continues its slow recovery, foreign aid will continue to be a source of contentious debate both at home and abroad.
– Taylor Dow