Reforming food aid means saving more lives in times of crisis

A few months ago, the House of Representatives narrowly defeated the Royce/Engel Amendment to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM bill), which would have enacted real food aid reforms on a 203 to 220 vote.

Although defeated, the amendment marked the first time such reforms were ever debated and voted upon in the House of Representatives. It also proved that there is growing support for reform in Congress.

As indicated in my blog post in June, it was ONE members and other NGOs who stood up and took action that led us so close to victory.

This month, ONE members will be standing up again for the final push towards reform.

As with all such battles, it ain’t over until it is over. Now that the leadership of the House and Senate have appointed a Conference Committee to reconcile to House and Senate versions of the FARRM bill, we have a chance to take another bite at the food aid reform “apple.”

Starting this week, the Conference Committee will meet to resolve the differences in the House and Senate versions, hopefully resulting in a final bill that can pass both Houses and be signed by the President. It is here in the Conference Committee where we have a real opportunity to include real food aid reform in the final bill.

ONE has already sent a letter to House and Senate conferees urging them to include food aid reform measures in their final bill. Very soon, our stalwart ONE members will be sending a clear message to the Conferees that we need real food aid reform now.

We have an opportunity to increase the impact and improve the efficiency of US food aid programs. We just need to ensure that these specific reforms are included in the FARRM bill. With such simple reforms, US food aid will be able to reach millions more people while maintaining current spending levels.

Specifically, the conferees should:

Authorize local and regional procurement as a tool for delivering food assistance: This will allow food to reach those in critical need of food faster and often cheaper than if it all was purchased in the United States.  Millions more lives could be saved with such flexibility, especially in emergency situations where the need is immediate.

Reduce monetization through increased flexibility of program funding and establish cost recovery targets for monetization activities: Monetization is the practice by which food commodities are donated by the United States to NGOs, which provide food aid on the ground – and it’s proven to be an inefficient means of supporting these activities. While ONE recognizes that monetization is not as efficient as other methods of delivering food aid, we do concede that it will continue to have a role.  But, it must be made to be as efficient as possible.

We were so close to achieving these goals back in June, but fell a little short. Now is our time to make food aid reform a reality. In a time of shrinking budgets, we must be able to do more with less. Putting food aid reform in the FARRM bill will enable us reach thousands or even millions of more people with life-saving assistance in times of conflict, food crises, and other humanitarian emergencies.

Stay tuned to ONE.org for more details. 

Read our food aid reform to the Senate conferees here