Obama administration hails Farm Bill's food aid reforms

The U.S. Agency for International Development hailed Tuesday's Senate passage of the Farm Bill for its “meaningful food air reforms.” 

The bill sets aside $80 million a year for local food purchases to deal with international emergencies, which supporters say is more effective than shipping food from the U.S. It also limits the use of monetization, the inefficient practice of selling U.S. commodities in countries receiving aid, by increasing the allowance to use cash-based assistance to those countries from 13 percent to 20 percent.

“The reforms to the Food for Peace program, which has fed billions of hungry people around the world over the last six decades, will increase the impact of this life-saving assistance,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in a statement. “The reforms in the bill significantly limit the inefficient practice of monetization, which requires USAID to ship American food aid to foreign markets where it is sold to fund food security related development activities. In its place, we will have greater flexibility to directly fund these programs, enabling the United States to reach an estimated 600,000 more people annually with the same amount of resources.”

The Senate passed the $956 billion farm bill by a 68-32 vote on Tuesday. It is now headed to the president's desk.

The food aid provisions fall short of reforms outlined in President Obama's budget blueprint and pushed by the chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs panel, Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). Shah thanked them for their efforts in his statement, along with the leaders of the House and Senate agriculture panels.

“This important step forward on the path to reform results from the support of a strong, bipartisan coalition of reformers, including humanitarian and faith-based organizations, think tanks and Members of Congress,” Shah said. “We look forward to working with Congress to further the important work started by the reforms in this legislation.”

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