05 June 2013

US Senate Falls Short of White House Food Aid Reform Plan

The Obama administration has an ambitious plan to reform the delivery of international food aid.

It’s ambitious not in concept. Everybody else does food aid this way: Buying food overseas in or near the emergency in order to speed up response times, support local economies and save money. No, it’s widely regarded as very sensible. The reason it’s ambitious is because Congress doesn’t want to do it.

In the latest move of political inertia, the US Senate on Monday voted to spend a tiny bit more on local food procurement, about $20 million. This amendment to the Farm Bill passed by the Senate represents a paltry sum in comparison to what the White House proposed.

Of the $1.8 billion budgeted for food aid spending, $60 million would be used for local purchases in the Senate budget. The amendment that passed with a voice vote increased the allocation from $40 million. A sum that pales in comparison to what the White House budget requested. The White House overhaul would put $1.4 billion towards emergency food aid, with only 55% sourced through the US. That means hundreds of millions of dollars could have been used to distribute food vouchers and purchase food in non-US markets.

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