AJWS: Congress Needs to Pass International Food Aid Reform Now

WASHINGTON, DC — American Jewish World Service released the following statement today as Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, convened a hearing on reforming the U.S. international food aid program.

“We commend Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Africa sub-committee Ranking Member Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) for their courage in taking a principled, bold stand for food aid reform, “said Timi Gerson, director of advocacy for AJWS. “This bi-partisan support affirms a growing consensus that the current program should be reformed to be more effective and efficient.

“The U.S. currently supplies approximately half of all food aid worldwide yet our program — unchanged since the Eisenhower Administration — is outdated. A recent study shows that transportation costs eat up more than 50 percent of food aid grain dollars and that there is an average delay of three to four months in delivery of food aid shipped from the U.S. This delay can be a matter of life or death. Shipping food from the U.S. as opposed to buying it closer to communities in need can also distort local markets and undercut prices for local farmers.

“The bottom line is that we could help more people with the same funding faster if we did it better. We can support local agriculture markets so that communities can become less dependent on aid over time. AJWS believes that we have not only the opportunity, but also the moral obligation to help 4 million more people get the food they need to survive.”

“We are encouraged by the bipartisan work that is happening in the House Foreign Affairs Committee as evidenced by today’s hearing. We thank the Committee for bringing attention to the urgent need for international food aid reform,” Gerson said.

Earlier this week, the Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (the Farm Bill), including an amendment that would create a permanent $300 million local and regional procurement program to help small-scale farmers around the globe working to build agricultural economies and long-term food security. While the Senate bill made incremental steps toward reform, it did not include the type of comprehensive modernization of the program that is proposed by Chairman Royce and Representative Bass through the House Food Aid Reform Act (H.R. 1983). The House will consider its version of the Farm Bill in the coming weeks.

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If you are a member of the press and wish to obtain information about our work or speak to a member of our global team on deadline, please contact Tanyanika Davis, Director of Media Relations, at tdavis@ajws.org.