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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

International Food Aid Programs: Background and Issues

Charles E. Hanrahan
Senior Specialist in Agricultural Policy

For almost six decades, the United States has played a leading role in global efforts to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and to enhance world food security through the sale on concessional terms or donation of U.S. agricultural commodities. The objectives for foreign food aid include providing emergency and humanitarian assistance in response to natural or manmade disasters, and promoting agricultural development and food security. In its FY2014 budget submission to Congress, the Administration proposes major changes in the funding and structure of both emergency and development food aid programs (Food for Peace Title II).

U.S. international food aid programs have traditionally been authorized in farm bills. The most recent of such bills, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246), authorized through FY2012 and amended international food aid programs. These programs are administered either by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). U.S. international food aid has been distributed mainly through five program authorities: the Food for Peace Act (P.L. 480); Section 416(b) of the Agricultural Act of 1949; the Food for Progress Act of 1985; the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program; and the Local and Regional Procurement Pilot Project, a pilot program in the 2008 farm bill which ended in FY2012. In addition, the 2008 farm bill also reauthorized the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT), a reserve of commodities and cash for use in the Food for Peace programs to meet unanticipated food aid needs.

The 112
th Congress extended the 2008 farm bill, including its international food aid provisions and food aid funding levels in effect during FY2012, through September 30, 2013, as part of the “fiscal cliff” legislation (P.L. 112-240).

Average annual spending on international food aid programs over the decade FY2002-FY2011 was approximately $2.2 billion, with Food for Peace Title II activities comprising the largest portion of the total budget. In recent years, the volume of Title II emergency food aid has exceeded the amount of nonemergency or development food aid. The 2008 farm bill provides for a “safe box” for funding of nonemergency development assistance projects under Title II, which was set at $400 million for FY2013. This requirement can be waived by the President if certain criteria are met. The 2008 farm bill also maintained funding for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program on a discretionary basis, and authorized $60 million over four years for a local and regional procurement pilot project to be implemented in developing countries in order to expedite the provision of food aid to vulnerable populations affected by food crises and disasters. Separately authorized and funded is USAID’s Emergency Food Security Assistance Program, which uses International Disaster Assistance funds to provide cash-based food security assistance (local/regional procurement, cash vouchers, or cash transfers) for emergency relief.

Food aid issues debated in 2012 have re-emerged as the 113
th Congress takes up the President’s food aid reform proposal. The issues include ensuring the nutritional quality of food aid provided; assessing the role of monetization (selling food aid commodities in recipient countries to finance development projects); determining the effectiveness and appropriateness of local and regional procurement of food aid; and determining the cost-effectiveness of U.S. cargo preference for delivering U.S. food aid. The Administration’s food aid proposal would shift funds from Food for Peace to three USAID accounts and eliminate the monetization procedure, provide flexibility to
procure commodities in local and regional markets overseas, and reduce the volume of commodities subject to cargo preference legislation. The Administration’s proposals will be fiercely debated as Congress takes up the President’s budget request.

Date of Report: May 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R41072
Price: $29.95

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