2012 Farm Bill Reauthorization Gives Congress a Chance to Get it Right with International Food Aid
WASHINGTON, D.C.; March 1, 2012– American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development and human rights organization, today released its latest report, The Time is Now for Food Aid Reform: Five Reasons Why U.S. Policies are Ripe for Reform in the Next Farm Bill. AJWS’s paper outlines the benefits of reforming current U.S. global food aid policies as Congress debates the farm bill. In the report, AJWS lays out five changes in the current political and economic climate conducive to far-reaching policy reforms.
“The push for food aid reform is more fortuitous now than it has been for decades,” said AJWS’s director of advocacy, Timi Gerson. “If Congress seizes the opportunity, they can make bold changes that will have lasting positive impact on both American taxpayers and the millions of hungry people around the world who depend on our aid.”
According to data from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. remains the world’s largest provider of international food assistance. Although food aid alone cannot close the world hunger gap, it plays a critical role in the lives of tens of millions of individuals and their families.
U.S. food aid programs, however, are not doing the greatest good for people in need. The current one-size-fits-all approach relies too heavily on the shipping of in-kind aid from the U.S. to areas in need, instead of employing a flexible approach that includes local and regional procurement as well as cash transfers or vouchers. The system is inefficient, with over 50 percent of taxpayer money for food aid grains wasted on subsidies to U.S. agribusiness and shipping companies. And in some cases, in-kind aid inadvertently distorts markets, undercutting local farmers who are critical to long-term sustainable food systems.
AJWS’s policy paper strikes a hopeful tone regarding the possibility of a new approach to the food aid programs in the 2012 Farm Bill. Recent small, but significant policy precedents enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill and subsequent appropriations as well as new research on the benefits of local and regional procurement (LRP), lay the groundwork for bigger structural reforms.
Beyond food aid reform’s humanitarian impact, AJWS’s report points out its relevance to the current congressional focus on fiscal responsibility. Record high food prices and budgetary pressures both increase the need for greater food aid cost effectiveness. Shifting interests and alignments among traditional supporters of the food aid status quo in the agriculture industry and among food-aid-implementing NGOs may also lower resistance to reform.
The paper contends that conditions influencing the fate of U.S. food aid policy have changed, and recent developments have created a timely opening for a politically attractive set of structural policy reforms in the next farm bill. Despite the long-running resistance to changes in U.S. food aid programs, AJWS argues that because of these changes in the political and economic context, the U.S. food aid debate is positioned at a potential turning point and the time is ripe for reform.
To read the policy paper online, please visit: http://bit.ly/z4NbiH.
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David L. Marcus