Lawmakers Continue Debate Over U.S. Food Aid Policy

“Lawmakers attempted Wednesday to push along an ongoing effort to modernize U.S. international food aid policy amid mounting bipartisan support for the use of more locally grown food products over the long-standing practice of shipping U.S.-grown commodities,” Inter Press Service reports. “The Food Aid Reform Act, introduced by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Representative Ed Royce [R-Calif.] and Africa Subcommittee Ranking Member Representative Karen Bass [D-Calif.], would eliminate previous requirements that food assistance be grown in the United States and transported on U.S.-flagged ships,” the news service notes, adding, “According to Royce, who spoke Wednesday in a conference of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 50 percent of the U.S. food aid budget is currently spent on shipping costs.” IPS continues, “Throughout Wednesday’s congressional discussions, experts highlighted the consequences of this food chain, particularly in war zones or emergency situations” (Hargis, 6/12).

“The hearing today with [former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman] and [former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios] obviously builds support with their endorsement of the initiative,” Royce said after the hearing, adding, “We will take some of the suggestions [by the witnesses], incorporate them [into the bill] and that would be an underlying vehicle potentially for achieving reforms,” according to The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog (Pecquet, 6/12). Natsios “argued before the committee that the current program must be made more flexible,” Talk Radio News Service notes (Dingbaum, 6/12). “Currently, the Food Aid Reform Act is a separate bill, but many observers assume that it will probably be tied into the House Farm Bill eventually,” Inter Press Service writes. In related news, the Senate on Monday “overwhelmingly passed a massive, five-year bill that covers much of U.S. agriculture and food-related policy and known as the Farm Bill,” the news service notes (6/12). “The bill, which finances programs as diverse as crop insurance for farmers, food assistance for low-income families and foreign food aid, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, 66 to 27,” the New York Times writes. The bill “left in place the decades-old international food aid program,” but “increased spending for buying food abroad to $60 million from $40 million,” the newspaper notes (Nixon, 6/10).