FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oxfam Reaction to President's Budget ProposalFeb 05, 2007
Washington, DC (February 5, 2007) International relief and development organization Oxfam America welcomed today's announcement that the President's budget calls for reform of agricultural subsidies and food aid in the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget request, but expressed disappointment over cuts in core foreign aid funding and lack of funding priority for Gulf Coast reconstruction.
"The President's budget on agriculture seems to move us in the direction of a safety net for America's farmers that is more aligned with international trade rules," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "While we believe these reforms could be improved, we applaud the general approach and encourage Congress to move further down the road to reform. Current programs are doing little to help most of America's farmers and rural communities while hurting poor farmers in developing countries."
The President's request for greater flexibility in distributing emergency food assistance is also a step welcomed by Oxfam. Currently, food aid is sent to emergencies from the US, often at great expense in cost and shipping time. By allowing for a portion of the U.S. food aid budget to be used to purchase food locally or regionally, emergency food assistance would be available faster, cheaper, and more appropriately for those who need it.
"The key in responding to food emergencies is flexibility, and humanitarian staff on the ground must have all food aid response tools at their disposal, including local and regional purchase" said Offenheiser. "The President's proposal will result in an increase the speed and volume of food made available during certain crises, which will result in many more hungry people being fed."
Oxfam criticized the absence of funding prioritization for Gulf Coast recovery in the President's Budget proposal. Needs of homeowners have only recently begun to be addressed and funds continue to be well short of rebuilding costs, while those families who were living in the over 100,000 rental homes damaged by the 2005 storms continue to be severely neglected.
"The disappearance of the Gulf Coast recovery as a national priority, so stark in its absence in the President's State of the Union Address, is again apparent in the President's FY'08 budget, which includes no new funding for housing recovery," said Offenheiser. "While the lack of words was distressing, the lack of funds is even more so. Local communities and volunteers from all over the country working to rebuild know the disaster is far from over. The recovery can not and should not be carried by them alone. Housing the hundreds of thousands of hurricane survivors on the Gulf Coast will take real and sustained federal commitment, measured in both words and funds."
While the President's overall request for foreign operations is higher than it was last year, Oxfam notes that the increase in some accounts may be coming at the expense of others.
"Presidential initiatives are intended to be in addition to current levels of foreign assistance, not a substitute for them," said Offenheiser. "With continued need for humanitarian assistance in regions like Darfur and eastern Congo, the shift of resources from the International Disaster Assistance and Famine Account (IDFA) account to the Economic Support Fund (ESF) account is deeply troubling."