Royce, Engel partner up on food aid reform amendment to farm bill

The chairman and ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs panel announced Tuesday that they will propose reforming the nation's food aid program as a bipartisan amendment to the pending farm bill. 

Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said their amendment would save the federal government $215 million a year by allowing the U.S. Agency for International Development to spend up to 45 percent of food aid funds of local food instead of shipping it from the United States. The House is expected to vote on a five-year farm bill this week.

“By enacting these bipartisan, commonsense food aid reforms, we can do more with less – we can feed more starving people, more quickly, at a lower cost,” Royce said in announcing the amendment.

“One of the key problems with the current system is that it takes too long to deliver US-grown food aid – an average of 130 days,” added Engel. “By purchasing food in the recipient country or region, we can cut that time in half, and in the process, get food to starving people before it’s too late.”

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The amendment faces bitter opposition from farm state lawmakers.

Twenty-one senators wrote to Obama opposing the overhaul when rumors first emerged that he would endorse food aid reform in this year's budget blueprint. Former President George W. Bush also called for reforming the nation's food aid system.

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