53 Members of House of Representatives call for international food aid reform in farm bill

By Oxfam America

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — As members of both houses of Congress prepare to negotiate a final version of the US farm bill, a bipartisan group of more than 50 members of the US House of Representatives sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees expressing strong support for reforms contained in the Senate version of the bill. The letter urged the conference committee to modernize U.S. international food aid programs by including broadly supported reforms that passed the Senate earlier this year.

The members' letter strongly supports the goals of US international food assistance programs saying they, "play a vital role in preventing famines, reversing acute and chronic child malnutrition, assisting those uprooted by conflict or natural disaster, and enabling vulnerable populations to build resilience against future food price shocks."  Achieving these goals requires that, "in a time of constrained budgets and increasing needs, more must be done to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our food aid system."

Efforts to modernize food aid have been proposed by both parties over the years, including by the Bush and Obama administrations. The letter reveals that there is a strong base of support in the House for the Senate-passed reforms that would increase the amount of food allowed to be purchased closer to where it's needed and reduce reliance on the inefficient practice of monetization, or shipping and selling commodities overseas to fund food security programs.

In response to the letter, a coalition of leading humanitarian and relief organizations congratulated the letter's authors, Representative's Ander Crenshaw (R- FL) and Adam Smith (D-WA), for their leadership to gather support for the Senate proposals:

"Reforming our food aid system could enable millions more people to be reached with lifesaving aid without costing taxpayers one extra penny. Representatives Smith and Crenshaw and the dozens of leaders in Congress who are standing up to fight for these common sense reforms deserve our thanks and our support."

Coalition members: American Jewish World Service, The Borgen Project, Bread for the World, CARE USA, Catholic Relief Services, Church World Service, InterAction, Mercy Corps, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, Oxfam America, Save the Children, World Food Program USA

Full text of the letter:

October 22, 2013

Dear Chairmen Stabenow and Lucas and Ranking Members Cochran and Peterson:

As you prepare to go to conference on the 2013 farm bill, we respectfully urge you to modernize U.S. international food aid by including broadly supported reforms in the trade title (Title III) of the Senate Farm Bill.

Every year, U.S. international food aid programs reach at least 65 million hungry people around the world. These programs play a vital role in preventing famines, reversing acute and chronic child malnutrition, assisting those uprooted by conflict or natural disaster, and enabling vulnerable populations to build resilience against future food price shocks.

Although notable progress has been made over the past several years to improve U.S. food aid programs, it has become increasingly clear that our current system needs more flexibility to achieve maximum impact in responding to complex emergency situations. Moreover, in a time of constrained budgets and increasing needs, more must be done to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our food aid system.

Specifically, we urge you to include the following items in the Farm Bill conference agreement:

  • Decrease the reliance upon monetization by providing greater flexibility in funding for non-emergency food assistance programs as proposed in Sections 3001, 3008, and 3201 of the current Senate version of the Farm Bill and by establishing a ceiling, rather than a floor, for funds that may be used to support monetization.
  • Support Section 3207 of the Senate bill that makes permanent the authority for local and regional procurement (LRP) projects at USDA at an annual authorized level of $60 million, with preference given to organizations carrying out programs under the McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. The 2008 Farm bill authorized a pilot program to implement and study LRP activities in both emergency and non-emergency settings. The results of the LRP pilot showed savings in both money (50 percent savings for unprocessed grain and some pulses) and time (on average an increase of 62 percent in timeliness).
  • Support section 3002 of the Senate bill extending the authority from the 2008 Farm Bill allowing USDA and USAID to accelerate the use of products that have proven to be superior in improving nutritional outcomes, and continuing to test new food aid products.

We appreciate your thoughtful leadership on this issue and look forward to working with you to support the passage of a Farm Bill that improves U.S. food aid programs to ensure that they meet the humanitarian and development needs of the 21st century.

Sincerely,

Signers:

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)
Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL)
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL)
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-NY)
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT)
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA)
Rep. David Scott (D-GA)
Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-IL)
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL)
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Rep. John Tierney (D-MA)
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Rep. Lujan Grisham (D-NM)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
Rep. André Carson (D-IN)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX)
Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
Rep. William Enyart (D-IL)
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Rep. Dana Rorahbacher (R-CA)
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL)
Rep. Spencer Bacchus (R-AL)
Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL)
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY)