International aid groups applaud reforms to food aid programs in Obama budget proposal

April 10, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the endorsing organizations: ActionAid, American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, Church World Service, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Maryknoll, The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, ONE, Oxfam America and Partners in Health.

The endorsing organizations listed above applaud the reforms to the U.S. food assistance program included in the Administration’s FY2014 budget submission to Congress. This budget reflects a strong commitment to helping the hungry in times of crisis as well as securing long-term food security for the world’s most vulnerable. The reforms the President proposes would make these critical programs more effective and efficient while expanding their reach to millions more people.

Food aid is one of the most important expressions of American leadership and values abroad. For just one-quarter of one percent of our federal budget, we deliver lifesaving support to many of the world’s 870 million chronically hungry people. The United States is the world’s most generous donor of food aid, but numerous independent studies and reports have concluded that our system for delivering that aid is plagued by inefficiencies and waste. Having witnessed firsthand the impediments to effective humanitarian response in the aftermath of crises and the waste associated with regulations on food aid programs, our organizations have advocated for common sense reforms to our outdated food aid system to ensure that both our disaster response and our long-term development efforts are more nimble, sustainable and responsive to local needs.

We welcome steps taken in this budget proposal that would significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. food aid by:

  • Removing outdated restrictions on the purchasing and shipping of food aid that slow the delivery of food and inflate its cost to U.S. taxpayers;
  • Providing humanitarian groups with greater flexibility to purchase food locally to reach more people without increasing the budget for this program by one penny;
  • Expanding local and regional purchase to ensure that food is procured closer to where it is needed so that it can be delivered faster;
  • Eliminating the need to “monetize” food aid, a process the Government Accountability Office has labeled, “an inherently inefficient use of resources”; and
  • Promoting sustainable solutions that build local food markets and support small producers to become more productive and resilient in countries that struggle to overcome chronic food insecurity.

Experts unanimously agree that purchasing locally-produced food from farmers in or near a region facing an emergency is far more cost-effective and provides faster relief than the current approach, which requires the shipment of U.S. commodities halfway around the globe. This view was recently validated by a study of a four-year, $60 million USDA pilot program for local purchase of food aid that resulted in food aid reaching recipients more than two months faster than in-kind food aid and at a significantly lower cost for the majority of commodities. The President’s request would provide additional flexibility to determine the most efficient way of procuring food aid.

Reform is long overdue and the Administration’s proposal is a solid step in the right direction.  Such a policy will begin the process of making our assistance more cost effective and reducing long-term food aid dependency. However, a bolder effort with greater flexibility will be necessary in FY2015 in order to truly meet the urgency of the moment. U.S. commodities must remain available to meet emergencies around the world, but rather than tying our humanitarian aid program to any single source, humanitarian groups should be provided adequate flexibility to respond to each emergency with the tools that will feed the most people in the most efficient way. The Administration should commit to phasing out this requirement in order to maximize efficiency and flexibility.

These reforms will significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of our food aid program. We urge the Appropriations Committees to incorporate the President’s proposals in their Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations bills, and provide funding allocations for the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bills that are sufficient to fund the initiative and other essential programs. Our organizations stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to see these reforms through, ensuring that our food aid reaches the hungry faster and is a better use of taxpayer dollars.


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