20 June 2013

Food Aid Reform's Last Gasp in the House

Update: This article was originally published early yesterday. Last night, the amendment was voted down by a slim margin of 203 to 220.The issue split Republicans 105-126, and it split Democrats 98-94.

The widely supported, bipartisan attempt to modernize and improve the U.S. government's food aid system is not yet dead.

What's at stake: Between 4 million and 10 million more hungry people overseas could be fed -- for the same amount of money -- if proposed changes are enacted, according to experts at a leading anti-poverty think tank, Center for Global Development.

Proponents argue that the proposed reforms would reach more hungry people faster, save money and save more lives. And it will knock $150 million off the federal deficit. The changes to food aid, initially proposed by the Obama Administration, are backed by a wide range of supporters from the conservative Heritage Foundation to the liberal opinion page of the New York Times.

Where we're at: An amendment sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) will allow USAID to spend as much as 45% of its emergency food aid budget for non-American food purchases. The amendment more closely reflects the White House plan than the small sum included in the Senate version of the Farm Bill. Relaxation to food procurement laws will make a big difference. Engel and Royce estimate that the amendment will save the federal government $215 million every year.

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