SANTA ANA, Calif. — An amendment passed in the House on Wednesday aimed at modernizing U.S. international food aid. The amendment, introduced by Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, would streamline food aid and ensure that delivery time and costs are reduced, while more people are helped.
The Royce Amendment reforms the Agriculture Appropriations Bill so that it will no longer be an obstacle in providing food aid. Instead of employing traditional international food aid mechanisms of producing domestically and shipping the food to crisis areas, the amendment proposes a Local and Regional Purchase program.
An LRP program means that food is purchased close to the area in crisis, which maximizes efficiency. Royce explained that an LRP program would reduce transit by 10 weeks and costs for recipients by 20-30 percent. It would reduce the U.S.’s budget by $215 million annually and enable food aid to reach 4 million more people.
The Agriculture Appropriations Bill does not provide funding for an LRP program. The Royce Amendment finds funds by shifting $10 million from marketing and promotion programs.
“While reducing funds for the administration of marketing and promotion programs that benefit major corporations, we can save lives, it’s an easy choice,” Royce said.
Under the current system, it takes an average of 130 days for domestically-produced food aid to reach starving people abroad. In some situations, such as in Syria, where it is almost impossible to deliver U.S. food, a local and regional system could save thousands of lives.
The amendment has bipartisan support. Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY), the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Ranking Member, presented a similar amendment in 2013 alongside Royce. The Royce-Engel amendment did not pass in the House. While voicing his support for the Royce-Engel amendment, Engel stated: “Sometimes it seems that we lost sight of why we have a food program in the first place — it’s to prevent men, women and children in the developing world from starving to death.”