Ellen Levinson, Executive Director
Washington, DC (May 14, 2013) — The Alliance for Global Food Security thanks the House and Senate agriculture committees for reauthorizing the international food assistance programs in their respective Farm Bills, which will be marked up this week. The members of the Alliance for Global Food Security are humanitarian and development organizations — typically called “private voluntary organizations” (PVOs) by the U.S. Government — that conduct community-based agriculture, nutrition and food security programs in 100 countries. Over the years, our members have worked closely with fellow practitioners, implementing partners, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to review and improve U.S. food assistance programs.
Together, Food for Peace, Food for Progress and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition programs allow the United States to address a variety of food and nutritional needs, making the U.S. food assistance programs the most comprehensive and responsive worldwide. In addition, under the International Disaster Assistance (PDF) account, which is not covered by Farm Bill, USAID provides funds for local and regional procurement of commodities during emergencies.
The Alliance strongly supports the provision in the House Farm Bill that continues a minimum funding level of $400 million for Food for Peace Title II programs that combine food aid with capacity-building activities in very poor communities. A recent in-depth study of 100 Title II development programs commissioned by USAID found that they improved nutrition of young children and increased household incomes and access to food. Many children are alive and well, having been spared ill-health and lifelong disabilities thanks to Title II development programs, which is no small feat in the poorest regions of the world where families have few resources and fighting hunger is a daily battle. [Second Food Aid and Food Security Assessment, Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III Project (FANTA), FHI 360, February 2013, p.12 (PDF)]
U.S. food aid programs are carefully designed to meet food shortfalls and to help famished people. To put the record straight, U.S. food aid is not a disincentive to local agricultural production. Indeed, as the FANTA study and others have shown, agricultural productivity and livelihoods are enhanced.
While most food aid is distributed, 7.5% of Food for Peace Title II food aid is monetized in recipient countries to help address food shortfalls in the marketplace. Using the sales proceeds to support programs that reduce malnutrition of children, increase local food production and sales, and improve incomes is an added benefit. The Alliance is pleased to see that the House Bill focuses monetization on countries where it can have the most benefit. Positive impacts in the recipient country that cannot be derived from direct cash funding include addressing credit, hard currency and small volume constraints that limit procurement of sufficient food supplies on the international market. [The Value of Food Aid Monetization: Benefits, Risks and Best Practices, Informa Economics, November 2012; pp. 5-6 (PDF)]
In countries where monetization is not advisable or feasible, USAID makes development assistance funds available to support program activities, for example, in Ethiopia and Haiti. Continuing this approach allows PVOs to have access to a variety of U.S. food products for distribution and monetization, but there is flexibility to use development assistance funds to support technical assistance, materials, training and other productive activities in countries where monetization is not possible.
The Alliance also appreciates the Senate Bill’s provision to extend the USDA local and regional procurement program. Because low productivity, insufficient and substandard food processing, and poor post-harvest and warehousing systems severely impede the availability of sufficient, wholesome foods in areas of need, we highly recommend that the purpose of this program be modified to focus on addressing those impediments.
As the Farm Bill moves forward, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss ways to improve flexibility without endangering future availability of U.S. food assistance to address emergency and chronic needs.
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About World Vision:World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve the world's poor — regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information on their efforts, visit WorldVision.org/press or follow them on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews