Senators Bob Corker and Chris Coons (D-De.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today introduced bipartisan legislation to modernize U.S. global food assistance programs as part of the 2018 farm bill. The Food for Peace Modernization Act of 2018 (FPMA) proposes greater efficiencies in the Food for Peace program so the U.S. can free up as much as $275 million to provide life-saving food to nearly 9 million more people in a shorter time period. Reps. Ed Royce (R-Ca.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Or.) introduced companion legislation on Wednesday in the House of Representatives.
“We currently spend 30 cents on the dollar for actual food in the Food for Peace program.
At no extra taxpayer expense, we can put more food into food aid and have it arrive months faster to feed millions of additional starving people without lessening the critical role of American farmers,” said Senator Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This bill is a win for everyone involved. We have made substantial progress in recent years in building support among stakeholders for these reforms, including support from the American Farm Bureau Federation. The farm bill provides the opportunity to more fully modernize our food aid efforts when there is enormous need around the world, and I am hopeful with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate that we will be successful.”
“The United States government and American farmers have a proud history of supporting food security around the world through the Food for Peace Program,” said Senator Coons, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “That history continues to this very day. At a time when more than 800 million people around the world are experiencing hunger, we need to take steps to ensure that this program is as efficient as possible. I am excited to introduce a bipartisan, bicameral bill that will increase the flexibility of U.S. food aid, allow us to reach more people with life-saving assistance, and stretch taxpayer dollars further while still maintaining the vital role of farmers in our food aid program. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass these reforms into law.”
Around the world today, 75 million people are at risk of starvation and 800 million people are in need of food aid, and yet only 30 percent of Food for Peace funding pays for food. The remaining 70 percent accounts for overhead and transportation costs from inefficiencies required in existing law. FPMA would amend current food aid authorities in the farm bill to deliver more food faster to those in need around the world while maintaining an important role for U.S. farmers.
FPMA contains the following key provisions:
More Cost Effective Procurement: Current law requires 100 percent of food aid commodities be produced in the United States regardless of the additional expense and delays to reach vulnerable populations. This results in only 30 percent of program funds being used for actual food while the rest is diverted to overhead expenses such as overseas and overland shipping costs. FPMA would reduce the U.S. commodity preference to 25 percent of food aid, permitting the remaining 75 percent to be sourced from locally or regionally procured (LRP) commodities, vouchers, and debit cards to buy food in local markets —whichever is the most cost effective option. As a result of a LRP pilot project, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) found that using LRP commodities allows the U.S. to feed more people, more quickly and at a lower cost. Since U.S. food aid represents just 0.2 percent of total U.S. agricultural output, the flexibility in the commodity preference would allow the U.S. to help millions more people at no significant loss for American farmers.
Eliminate Monetization: Current law requires 15 percent of all U.S. donated food to be sold first by aid organizations, producing cash that then funds development projects. GAO has warned this process – known as “monetization” – is “inefficient and can cause adverse market impacts” in recipient countries. GAO also found monetization loses an average of 25 cents on every taxpayer dollar spent. According to USAID, eliminating monetization could feed an additional 800,000 people and free up an estimated $30 million per year. The legislation would lift the 15 percent requirement.
As advocates for improving U.S. international food aid delivery, Senators Corker and Coons recently joined American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duval in an op-ed that explains how American farmers and U.S. commodities will continue to play an integral role in any reform effort. Last year, the senators visited the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda where they witnessed the enormous scale of the global food crisis gripping tens of millions of people, many of them children, in conflicts from Africa to the Middle East.