NOTE: This post comes courtesy of Kelly Hauser and our friends at the ONE Campaign. You can join their efforts to break the cycle of hunger and poverty in places of need here.
If the United States could have delivered 100 million more tons of food aid last year to the Horn of Africa crisis for the same cost, would you have voted for that? I would have. Currently in Congress, there is an opportunity to make our food aid dollars go much farther. It’s called the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is a massive bill that Congress puts together every five years. It covers mostly domestic agriculture policy, including farm subsidies, environmental conservation, food safety, rural community development and, in the international realm, food aid. On Friday, the Senate released its draft Farm Bill. Overall, the policy changes in the draft bill represent improvements to U.S. food aid policy, but we think Congress could do more.
ONE sent a letter to Chairwoman Stabenow and Senator Roberts of the Senate Committee on Agriculture asking them to buy emergency food aid closer to where it is needed — to save on shipping and food costs, as well as to speed up delivery. ONE also asked them to require more efficiency when organizations sell U.S.-grown food in developing countries to fund development projects — yes, this actually happens. You can read our letter here.
Why buy food closer to the emergency?
Purchasing locally and regionally has proven to be more cost-effective and efficient than shipping U.S.-grown food across the globe. It also benefits local developing country farmers and strengthening poor economies. In the 2008 Farm Bill, the US increased its support for local and regional procurement of food aid (LRP) in a pilot program. According to an evaluation by Cornell University of the pilot, buying cereals like wheat and corn locally can save taxpayers over 50 percent, shorten delivery time by 62 percent and help poor farmers significantly. With this in mind, ONE is asking Congress to allow the US government to purchase up to 25 percent of food aid closer to its destination.
Why more efficiency in monetization?
Monetization is a process whereby organizations are granted food to ship overseas and sell in order to fund development projects. It is a pretty inefficient way to fund development (not to mention the market distortions that result). According to a Government Accountability Office report, when organizations sell food aid to fund development projects, they typically recover between two-thirds and three-fourths of what it costs to buy and ship the food. As long as this practice exists, ONE advocates that organizations should recover at least 80 percent of the costs to taxpayers. Many organizations already achieve this and the U.S. government used to require it.
By increasing the impact of our food aid dollars and making monetization more efficient, we can save more lives and help more people break the cycle of malnutrition and poverty as part of ONE’s Thrive campaign.
Want to do more? The Senate will mark-up the Farm Bill on Wednesday, and the House will soon write its own draft bill. Tweet a link to this blog post to the Congressional Agriculture leadership: @stabenow, @SenPatRoberts, and @HouseAgNews.