MFAN Statement: Food Aid Reform Act Would Maximize Efficiencies and Save Lives

May 16, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

We strongly commend House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Africa Subcommittee Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA) for introducing the Food Aid Reform Act (H.R. 1983). The legislation includes common sense reforms that would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. food aid. If adopted, the reforms proposed in this legislation would more feed more people, more quickly while saving taxpayers $500 million over the next ten years.

Since its founding, MFAN has advocated for bold action on food aid, an area where better policies would maximize efficiencies and save additional lives. In 2011, MFAN committed itself to advocate for common sense reforms, including eliminating restrictions on the use of local and regional food procurement; repealing inefficient cargo preference provisions; and scaling down food aid monetization, which Government Accountability Office research has demonstrated is “inefficient and can cause adverse market impacts.” The wide-ranging reforms proposed by Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Bass would significantly advance these objectives. The Food Aid Reform Act eliminates superfluous costs by ending monetization, reducing U.S.-only procurement requirements, and exempting food aid assistance from cargo preference.

The bill is timely, coming shortly after the President’s FY2014 budget request’s bold proposal to improve the Food for Peace program that distributes emergency food assistance. MFAN joined much of the development community in support of the President’s plan to enhance the long standing commitment of the American people to respond to emergencies and reduce hunger and poverty around the world, by reducing inflated procurement and transportation costs, continuing shipping commodities from the U.S. while removing harmful restrictions on purchasing food locally and regionally, and funding more sustainable practices that encourage agricultural self-sufficiency and food security. The Food Aid Reform Act legislation acknowledges these reform priorities and would provide humanitarian organizations with additional flexibility to respond to food emergencies.

With improved coordination, U.S. development and agriculture policies have the potential to catalyze lasting change in countries that struggle with chronic food insecurity, ultimately terminating dependence on U.S. assistance in the long term. If adopted and implemented, this legislation would replace an antiquated system with a data-driven, evidence-based approach to sustainable food security while preserving the deeply valued connection between farming communities in the U.S. and the developing world.

MFAN applauds the introduction of this strong reform legislation by Chairman Royce and Rep. Bass and urges other members of Congress to work with them in passing needed changes to our food aid system. When budgets are under severe strain and global hunger afflicts so many, we cannot afford to delay these important reforms.

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