June 4, 2014

CWS, International Aid Groups Applaud Bipartisan Food Aid Reform Legislation

WASHINGTON - CWS today joined a coalition of organizations working to fight hunger, poverty and malnutrition around the world in welcoming proposed bipartisan legislation that would provide up to 9 million more people with lifesaving aid at no additional cost by using taxpayer dollars more efficiently.

The measure, called the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014, was proposed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) and African Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Chris Coons (D-DE).

The bill modernizes U.S. food aid programs, removing outdated red tape and ensuring the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) can reach more of the world’s most vulnerable children and families quickly and effectively during times of crisis. The bill places food aid authorities into the Foreign Assistance Act while maintaining the objectives and core structures of the original program. It would allow USAID to run a 21st century food aid program with the flexibility needed to meet increasing demand from humanitarian crises. We urge members of the Senate to swiftly pass this bill and ensure it is signed into law.

“This legislation would make it possible for the U.S. to better align its generosity with the efficiency that would make it possible to provide food aid to people in crisis in a more timely manner,” said CWS President and CEO the Rev. John L. McCullough.

Emphasizing their desire to work with members of both parties to ensure long overdue reforms are passed into law, members of the coalition stated, “With a growing number of crises around the world and volatile food and fuel prices stressing aid budgets, it is imperative to build on the momentum achieved through reforms included in the Farm Bill and FY14 appropriations and maximize flexibility to ensure tax dollars get a bigger bang for their buck.

The United States is the world’s most generous donor of food aid, and U.S. international food assistance is one of the most important expressions of American leadership and values abroad. Food aid helps feed 55 million people in need around the world every year, supporting both emergency response and programs that tackle chronic hunger and malnutrition.

This Act responds to the numerous studies and reports that conclude that our system for delivering food aid is plagued by inefficiencies that, if improved, would result in reaching more hungry people more quickly and at no additional cost. One Government Accountability Office study found that because of existing outdated rules, it can take four to six months for U.S. food aid to be procured, shipped and distributed in recipient countries. During urgent crises, these delays can be a matter of life and death.

The following reforms, included in President Obama’s FY2014 budget request, would be implemented under the legislation:

  • Give the U.S. greater flexibility in shipping food aid by removing the requirement that donated food be shipped on U.S. flag ships.
  • Give the U.S. the ability to feed more people, more quickly and at lower cost by removing the requirement that all food donated by the U.S. be produced in the U.S., thereby allowing the purchase of some food locally and regionally in crisis areas.
  • Eliminate monetization, which is requirement that 15 percent of all U.S. donated food be sold first by aid organizations to produce the cash needed to fund development projects.  The General Accounting Office has called the practice inefficient and wasteful of aid money.

Along with CWS, coalition members include American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, Oxfam America, Presbyterian Church USA, Save the Children, The Borgen Project, and United Methodist Board of Church and Society.