Groups keep pressure on regarding food aid

Published on: Oct 16, 2013

A group of 40 agricultural, maritime, non-governmental and private voluntary organizations, ports and harbors, and faith-based organizations recently detailed in a letter to farm bill conferees what the coalition supports in terms of food-aid policies and programs in the next farm bill. 

The key to successful U.S. food-aid programs, the letter said, is "keeping U.S. commodities the differentiating characteristic of these programs...we believe that proven approach paves the way for a sustainable future."
Coalition-supported programs include reauthorization of Food for Peace (P.L. 480), Food for Progress, McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition, and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.

The coalition does not support "provisions that deviate significantly from the current transparency and structure of those programs by allowing the use of P.L. 480 Title II and Food for Progress funds to pay the costs of unspecified "activities" conducted in recipient countries; decreasing the minimum funding level for non-emergency (developmental) Title II programs; and capping the amount of funds that can be spent on developmental programs."

Speaking to members of the press at the World Food Prize Oct. 16, David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, challenged that if farmer groups who are opposed to the change saw that if the amount of U.S. commodities purchased was cut, but would only result in a few nickels less than farmers, they might change their mind.

He added that 2-4 million people could be reached with U.S. aid if changes were made similar to what President Obama proposed earlier this year, and that it should be a "no-brainer."

"It doesn't make sense for us to appropriate food aid and not do it in the most efficient way," he said.

Beckman, who is also a 2010 World Food Prize Laureate, said that although the farm bill is unlikely to include the full proposal rolled out by the President, he expects the situation could turn more favorable next year.

A very close House vote on an amendment similar to the President's proposal brought support from both sides of the aisle. Beckman said those who have benefited from the current system were surprised by the President's proposal, but the administration is "trying to deal with those people in advance" in order prevent the same backlash from replaying out next year and as to not hurt those interests and gain broader support in 2014.