The Food Aid Reform Act, or H.R. 1983, was introduced to Congress on May 15th of this year. Just a couple weeks ago, the House of Representatives subcommittee responsible for H.R. 1983, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, held a significant hearing on the bill. Though they have yet to officially report on the bill, govtrack.us gives it a 47% chance of passing. Given the importance of the Food Aid Reform Act in the fight against global poverty, this prognosis is troubling.
The Food Aid Reform Act amends the Food for Peace Act to reform assistance programs under that Act. As House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce notes, the current food aid system is needlessly inefficient and ineffective. The US buys food from American farmers and ships it across entire oceans to countries in need. The Food Aid Reform Act would result in food aid being purchased for cheaper from small farmers in the target nation itself, or somewhere nearby. Not only would food aid be cheaper under this approach, but impoverished local farmers would no longer be competing with heavy agribusinesses abroad.
According to a USDA pilot project, taxpayers would get 25% to 50% more food for their dollars under the Act. Moreover, food would reach communities up to fourteen weeks faster than through the current system. Clearly, the facts show the sensibility of reform.
Unfortunately, the 47% passage prognosis indicates there is much work to be done in drumming up the necessary support to get the bill passed. One way of getting this support is to take a moment to call your local congressperson and voice your opinion on the matter. If not for the good of local farmers themselves, we, as taxpayers, should consider our wallets.
– Herman Watson