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U.S. Government Food Aid funding

The Title II, Food for Peace program administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides a reliable and safe source of foods (e.g. wheat, corn, sorghum, rice, vegetable oil, dry beans, peas and lentils, and products fortified by soy, dairy and/or micronutrients) for emergencies and areas where persistent hunger stunts children’s growth, decreases productivity, causes social instability, increases susceptibility to disease and is an underlying cause of many premature deaths. The targeted countries do not produce enough food to meet the nutritional needs of their populations and cannot afford to import sufficient amounts to make up the difference.

The Title II food aid is used in programs that improve the nutrition of pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants and young children and improve agricultural productivity, food systems and incomes in poor communities where hunger is a persistent problem. A key to their success is the strengthening of local organizations, government institutions, farmer associations, cooperatives and other businesses, building the capacity for people to meet their own needs and reducing reliance on emergency aid.

For example, in the 1990’s, in the aftermath of 15 years of civil war, Title II food distribution in Mozambique helped that country transition to a more peaceful and stable democracy. Once immediate needs were met, the Title II program shifted to developmental objectives and multiyear programs. In areas where 50% of children were malnourished, there are now healthy children. Families produce, and can afford to buy, enough food to provide for their households year round. This program model, implemented by U.S. private voluntary organizations and cooperatives in partnership with local organizations and government agencies, is being replicated in other areas of Mozambique where hunger still prevails.

Funding for America’s premier international food assistance program, Food for Peace (PL 480 Title II), totaled $2.2 billion in fiscal year 2006, peaked at almost $3 billion in fiscal year 2009, and dropped to about $2.3 billion in fiscal year 2010 and to $1.497 in fiscal year 2011.

The other mainstay food aid program from the U.S., the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, helps promote education, child development, and food security for some of the world’s poorest children. It provides for donations of U.S. agricultural products, as well as financial and technical assistance, for school feeding and maternal and child nutrition projects in low-income countries.

This spring and summer, the 2012 Farm Bill and the 2013 agricultural appropriations bills will both be in front of Congress and each will address food aid.  The Farm Bill will set policy for the next five years and the appropriations process will determine how resources are allocated in the 2013 fiscal year.

While there is no assurance a Farm Bill can be passed this session, Agriculture Committee staffs are working on the assumption that a new 2012 Farm Bill will be considered and that they will need to reauthorize Title II and the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Programs.  Though no large changes are being discussed, a few issues remain controversial.

Local and Regional Purchase (LRP)

The 2008 Farm Bill authorized $60 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to run a few projects on LRP and evaluate whether they were successful, compared to supplying in-kind U.S. food aid products. Agriculture and food groups involved in food aid policy have taken the position that LRP may have some potentially positive impacts on development for local farmers, but it is not a substitute for a fully functional procurement system, nor will it be able to provide adequate supplies to needy people. The House and Senate Agriculture Committee staffs warned NAMA that there is a great deal of pressure to keep some LRP in the Farm Bill authorization, which could include Title II and/or McGovern Dole and/or Food for Progress. All the farm groups are united in suggesting that LRP is not a good use of Title II funds and if LRP is appropriate for response to emergencies, it should be funded from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), which is a foreign aid budget item, not agriculture.

Development Safebox and Monetization

The development safebox that was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill mandated about $400 million of the $1.6 billion Title II budget be used for multi-year development programs (as opposed to emergency response) and with 70% of that development funding going to monetized commodities, the safebox has become a controversial issue. A year ago, when the Horn of Africa was in need of emergency food and the 2012 House Appropriations Committee had passed a bill to reduce Title II to $1.0 billion, World Food Program (WFP) USA mounted an effort to roll back the safebox to a smaller level or permit the Administration to waive the mandated amount to save lives. In short, they painted a scenario where people were dying of starvation in order for U.S. food aid to be sold and used to fund roads, schools or immunizations. It was an effective argument and the safebox that was scheduled to increase by $50 million in 2012, remained steady at this level.

As the House and Senate consider the 2010 Farm Bill, the stakeholders have been asked to take sides and NAMA is uncommitted on the appropriate level of the safebox.  WFP USA and some advocates for emergency programs have argued for a smaller safebox, with more flexibility in waiver authority. The Private Voluntary Organization’s (PVO) Alliance for Global Food Security, with the assistance of the wheat growers who support monetization, supports at least as large a safebox as before and a waiver authority.

Also, Representative Kevin Yoder, (R, KS) included report language for the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Subcommittee FY 2013 Appropriations bill to limit the amount of monetization or sales of donated U.S. food aid. NAMA supports limiting monetization by PVOs, as it is an inefficient method of generating cash for the PVOs operations. The report language is a result of NAMA’s meetings with Congressman Yoder’s staff.

Prepared by Paul, NAMA International Trade Consultant, 202.484.2200, ext. 15, [email protected].
Last update May 2012

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