Food Aid Reform Act
On Wednesday, June 12 discussions continued on Capitol Hill in an attempt to push forward a modernization of US international food aid policy according to the Guardian’s Cydney Hargis.  HR 1983, the Food Aid Reform Act, would remove laws requiring US food aid to be grown in the United States and then shipped to the receiving countries.  Instead, it would allow food aid to be purchased in areas local to the countries receiving it.  The impact of the Food Aid Reform Act would be twofold:  it would eliminate the time and costs required to ship the food, and it would further stimulate the economies of countries or regions that are receiving US food aid.

Under the Food Aid Reform Act, aid could reach the receiving country up to 14 weeks sooner, giving up to 4 million people better access to food.  It would also significantly decrease transportation costs of US food aid, which make up 50 percent of the US food aid budget.  Right now US food aid has to travel 7,000 miles to reach its destination and that food chain is vulnerable, especially in conflict zones such as what we are seeing right now in Syria.

The other aspect of the Food Aid Reform Act is the stimulation of the local economy where the food is being produced.  When the US ships food to developing countries as aid, the US food can crowd out locally produced food.  This is especially important considering that most of the world’s poorest and those without food security are small farmers.  In shipping food to aid the poorest in the developing world, the US can prevent these farmers from being able to sell their crops at a profitable price, thereby harming the very people which USAID is supposed to be helping.

Purchasing food aid locally will raise the demand for local food, thereby driving up the price and enabling farmers to gain more profit out of the crops they sell.  This profit can then be put towards things like better fertilizers, water pumps, and other things which increase the productivity of these farmers.  When these farmers increase their productivity their communities will develop their food security, fixing the very reason that food aid would have to be provided to these developing nations in the first place.

The Food Aid Reform Act is a piece of bipartisan legislation that will go a long way to modernize US foreign aid.  It will help stimulate developing economies to bring them further towards contributing significantly to the global economy, which will ultimately lead to a more prosperous international community as a whole.

 Martin Drake

Source: The Guardian, House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Photo: ONE

Food Aid Reform Act Faces Fight in Congress

Initial support for reforms to food aid came from both parties. It turns out everyone believes money for food aid in emergency situations should go to feed people. The problem comes when determining how that aid should work and where it should be spent. President Obama has introduced reforms to policy dating back to the Eisenhower era, but the food aid reforms have hit trouble in Congress.

The discussion is focused on whom the US should buy food in emergency situations.  Currently, the US purchases food from US farmers and ships it overseas. Reforms to food aid include using money allocated to purchase food from overseas farmers. The US is currently one of the only major food-producing nations that still ships its food overseas rather than purchasing food directly from poorer farmers.

The money involved is around $2 billion; US agriculture is expected to bring in $128 billion of profits this year, making this a small amount in comparison. For poor farmers around the world, it is life-changing. It allows farmers in developing nations to improve their crops and continue to produce and sell their goods. This amount also would help prevent food insecurity, a source of unrest in many nations. Food insecurity is often accompanied by other insecurities as well.

Nigeria’s Minister of Agricultural and Rural Development, Akinwnumi Adesina, is a major supporter of the reforms. The money would help Nigeria continue to promote national security and help farmers grow economically. The Obama plan would shift the $2 billion spent on food aid to the USAID and allow them to use it to purchase food overseas.  Farmers would get a subsidy for at least the first year to replace some of the lost profit. In addition, 55% of food aid dollars will still go to American farmers.

Food aid reforms are long overdue and a key to promoting global development worldwide. They are also a key step in helping the US keep nations secure and conflict at a minimum. The reforms will help countries like Nigeria shift away from food dependence to food independence and become growing, thriving economies.

Call your Congressional leaders today and request they support the Food Aid Reform Act (H.R. 1983).

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Bloomberg