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Farm bill makes modest international food aid reforms

By Ben Grossman-Cohen
Rice distributed and sold in Liberia. Photo: Ruby Wright/Oxfam International

The US food aid system is crucial to the global fight against hunger, especially in the wake of a disaster or in the midst of a food crisis. Each year, our programs reach millions of hungry people with lifesaving aid—and, with the right reforms, they could reach millions more.

This week, Congress took steps to make some of those vital reforms. The US House of Representatives has voted to pass a new five year farm bill agreement struck with the Senate. In response to the bill’s passage Eric Munoz, senior policy advisor for Oxfam America, said:

“The farm bill agreement shows that the sun is setting on outdated, wasteful regulations on international food aid programs. We commend Chairman Stabenow and other members of the farm bill Conference Committee for their leadership in achieving modest first steps to reform international food aid programs that will help more life-saving aid reach hungry people in crisis without costing taxpayers one extra penny.

“In the face of emergencies like Typhoon Haiyan, the humanitarian crisis in Syria and rising costs for food and transport, international food aid programs need much greater flexibility in order to be effective and save lives. Last year the House of Representatives came just a few votes short of passing an amendment to the farm bill sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Royce (R-CA) that would have gone further to reform food aid. Sadly, special interests continue to wield undue influence to block more ambitious change. This deal represents real progress from the 2007 Farm Bill and is a stepping stone for comprehensive reforms that we expect will be included in the President’s budget later this year.”

Food aid reforms in the Farm Bill conference agreement include:

1. A pilot program created in the 2008 farm bill to study the effectiveness of purchasing food aid locally and regionally will be continued as a full program with modestly increased funding to $80 million per year. Locally and regionally purchased food aid has been shown to be cheaper and more effective in many circumstances. This provision could help reach more than 1.8 million additional people with life-saving aid at no additional cost to taxpayers.

2. Efforts are made to reduce the “monetization” of food aid whereby food aid is dumped on developing country markets, a wasteful way to raise funds for long term development projects.

Tweet your support for these crucial, life-saving reforms to our food aid system:
"If we #fixfoodaid, we can save lives & reach millions more hungry people w/ aid. Thanks @SenateAg for putting impt reforms in the Farm Bill!"

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