WILLIAMSTOWN, Massachusetts — “The mission of America’s food aid program is to save lives.” These are the words of Senator Christ Coons (D-Delaware,) chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. On June 3, Coons, together with United States Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee,) introduced The Food For Peace Reform Act, with the goal of saving millions more lives through aid each year.
The Food For Peace Reform Act is piece of bipartisan legislation that reforms the U.S. global food assistance program. If passed, this Act would free up as much as $440 million annually by increasing the efficiency of the aid delivery process. Greater efficiencies in delivering aid would allow the U.S. to access about seven to nine million more people, in a shorter time-span.
This reform is a much-needed upheaval of the American food aid system. Even the largest charities have turned down American aid packages. In 2007, CARE, one of the world’s biggest charities, walked away from $45 million a year in federal financing because of the ineffective aspects of U.S. food aid.
According to Senator Coons, the inefficient system currently in place often hurts the very communities we are trying to help. The Food For Peace Act will “help get food aid to where it is needed months sooner.”
This Act would transfer current food aid authorities from the Farm bill of 2014 into the Foreign Assistance Act. Currently, 100 percent of food aid administered by the U.S. must be produced by farmers in this country. The Food For Peace Reform Act would lift this responsibility off U.S. farmers and allow vouchers and cash transfers to be used, which increases efficiency and lowers costs.
Additionally, this Act will allow any vessel to carry food aid, rather than strictly American-flagged vessels, as is required by current U.S. law. A study by Cornell University reveals that this measure will save an estimated $50 million per year and allow for faster delivery to larger populations.
Lastly, The Food For Peace Act will eliminate monetization. Monetization requires that 15 percent of all U.S. donated food to be sold first by aid organizations, producing cash that then funds development projects. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) warns that monetization is “inefficient and can cause adverse market impacts” in countries that receive U.S. aid. USAID found that getting rid of monetization has the potential to feed 800,000 more people and save the U.S. an estimated $30 million per year.
One of the biggest complaints of charities, like CARE, is the interference of U.S. aid with domestic production of commodities in the recipient countries. This problem will be resolved by a provision in The Act that requires USAID to determine that the aid will not have a disruptive impact on the producers or the local economy of the countries it is trying to assist.
“Food aid remains one of the most tangible ways U.S. foreign aid can help improve stability around the world,” argues Corker. The passage of The Food For Peace Reform Act would give the U.S. much needed flexibility, and allow the poorest people in this world to get the aid they so desperately need faster and more efficiently.