WASHINGTON — The Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015, reintroduced by U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) in the new Congress, proposes to free up to $440 million annually while reaching an additional eight million to 12 million people. Identical to the act introduced in the last Congress, The Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015 includes the same reforms to procurement, cargo and monetization proposed by the president and supported by both parties.
“Our current system for acquiring and distributing food aid is inefficient and often hurts the very communities it is trying to help,” Senator Coons said.
The bipartisan legislation (S. 525) reorganizes and, according to Senator Coon, “modernizes” current U.S. global food aid to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. resources.
“These necessary reforms will allow us to better promote stability around the world by delivering lifesaving food to those in need more quickly at a lower cost. Reorganizing this vital food aid program in a more sensible way will help to further U.S. interests,” Senator Corker said.
The act proposes “cost-effective procurement,” which would lift the current law that requires the U.S. to produce all food aid commodities. The bill allows U.S. global food aid to use U.S. and locally- or regionally-produced goods, vouchers and cash transfers.
The bill also includes cargo flexibility. This revision would affect current laws that require USAID to ship 50 percent of food aid on U.S. vessels. The bill would allow USAID to ship aid on vessels based on availability. USAID, Government Accountability Office, or GAO, and a study conducted by Cornell University conclude that cargo flexibility could save $50 million per year and expedite the delivery of food aid.
The bill eliminates monetization, a process that requires aid organizations to sell 15 percent of donated food to raise funding for development projects in the countries receiving the aid. The GAO previously criticized the process as “inefficient” and unsustainable for the recipient’s market. Removing monetization would allow U.S. aid to reach an additional 800,000 people.
The changes proposed in the bill are projected to have minimal impact on the U.S. shipping and agricultural sectors. From 2002-2011, 0.86 percent of the U.S. shipping sector included food aid. While 1.41 percent of net farm income from 2002-2011 came from U.S. food aid.
The content of the bill reflects proposals made by the Obama administration in 2014. U.S. agriculture and shipping sectors successfully fought these proposals last year. “At this point, we’re not embracing it,” said Robert B. Aderholt, chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
The farm bill and agriculture authorizing and appropriations committees currently have jurisdiction over Food for Peace. Under the Corker-Coons bill jurisdiction transfers to the authorizing and appropriations committees managing the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“More than anything else, the mission of America’s food aid program is to save lives,” Senator Coons said.
– Nicole Doi
Sources: CQ, U.S. Senate
Photo: The Huffington Post