May 16, 2013 (Washington, DC)- This statement is delivered on behalf of the following endorsing organizations: American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, Church World Service, The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, Oxfam America and Partners in Health.
The endorsing organizations listed above applaud bi-partisan legislation introduced yesterday by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA). The Food Aid Reform Act (HR 1983) offers long overdue reforms to the U.S. food assistance program, similar to what was included in the Administration’s FY2014 budget submission to Congress. These reforms—if enacted—mean the U.S. would be able to deliver lifesaving food assistance more quickly, more efficiently and to millions of more hungry people every year with the same taxpayer resources.
More than 870 million people suffer from chronic hunger. With such considerable global needs, and our federal budget under significant pressure, our efforts to provide sustenance and nutrition to the poor must be designed to ensure the greatest impact using limited available resources. In the sixty years that the U.S. has provided food aid to the world’s most vulnerable populations, humanitarian organizations have identified best practices that can significantly enhance these programs’ efficiency and cost-effectiveness. While dozens of studies have identified reforms that would increase the reach of our aid, outdated statutes limit flexibility and impede progress toward this goal. In the words of U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah, “…we’ve learned that the current approach to food aid can become—at times—an impediment to its very own mission.”
Both the President’s proposal and this legislation address many long-standing concerns that have been raised about food aid. The Royce-Bass bill would end the wasteful practice of monetization. Additionally, it would remove restrictions on the shipping of food aid that slow its delivery and inflate the cost to U.S. taxpayers. “Cargo preference” was originally intended to maintain certain maritime capabilities necessary during the Cold War. Today, foreign-owned shipping companies exploit this “Buy America” loophole by operating U.S. flagged carriers and charging premium rates to the federal government. The practice restricts competition, increasing expenditures for ocean freight and costing U.S. taxpayers approximately $140 million each year. The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates that up to half of its spending on food aid can be attributed to ocean transportation costs.
This bi-partisan bill provides the government with additional flexibility to respond to food emergencies: it maintains the ability to purchase and ship US commodities when it is the most appropriate tool, and allows for local purchase of food when such purchases ensure that food reaches hungry people in need faster and at a lower cost. We believe this bill could be strengthened by explicitly maintaining the structure for non-emergency food aid that has helped millions of chronically hungry families around the world. We urge that as the bill moves through the legislative process that these important authorities are included.
These evidence-based reforms will significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our food aid program. Chairman Royce and Representative Bass’s plan is a balanced approach to delivering food assistance and maximizing efficiencies. We urge the House Foreign Affairs Committee to swiftly approve the proposal. Our organizations thank Chairman Royce and Representative Bass for their leadership and stand ready to work with members on both side of the aisle to ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are used more efficiently and feed the greatest number of hungry people possible.