Bipartisan Food Aid Reform Legislation Will Save More Lives through Efficiency Gains

March 15, 2018 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Tessie San Martin, and Connie Veillette.

MFAN welcomes the bipartisan, bicameral food aid reform legislation introduced yesterday by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). The bills enhance the ability of humanitarian responders to purchase aid locally and end inefficient monetization requirements. These reforms represent significant progress toward more comprehensive reform by considerably increasing the efficiency of our food aid programs and allowing the United States to save more lives at no additional cost to taxpayers.

With several countries around the globe mired in conflict and on the brink of famine, the need for responsive and efficient life-saving food aid is urgent. Furthermore, the evidence to support these reforms has never been clearer: millions more people could be reached by reducing the outdated restrictions that tie up vital aid.

The Food for Peace Modernization Act (S. 2551; H.R. 5276) would decrease the percentage of food aid funds used to purchase and transport U.S. commodities overseas to 25 percent, accounting for their ongoing role in emergencies while achieving major efficiency gains. Lowering this restriction gives the United States the ability to buy more food in local markets, helping reach vulnerable populations faster. Additionally, the legislation would end the inefficient monetization requirement, where NGOs sell U.S. commodities in order to cover operational costs. The practice distorts local markets and loses an average of 25 cents to every dollar. These much-needed reforms are supported by members of the agricultural community as well as the development community.

“The way the United States administers food assistance is stuck in the 1950s,” said Connie Veillette, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center. “It is high time for Congress to upgrade our food aid programs by expeditiously passing this legislation.”

“Reforms that help feed millions more people at no additional cost should be a no-brainer,” said Tessie San Martin, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Plan International USA. “The multitude of current crises demands we get more live-saving aid from each taxpayer dollar.”

“The improvements proposed in the legislation honor the United States’ long-standing humanitarian leadership providing international food assistance,” said George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution. “Food aid reform has the backing of humanitarians and farmers as well as Republicans and Democrats; Congress should recognize this and act.”

MFAN wishes to thank the sponsors for their steadfast leadership on food aid reform and effective development. We look forward to working together with Congress, the administration, and the development community to enact these overdue policy changes.

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