Last Friday, Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-Kan) presented a draft Farm Bill to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Excerpts from Mercy Corps Director of Policy and Advocacy Jeremy Konyndyk's response follow:
One of the bill’s most commendable additions is a significant increase in funding for local and regional purchase (LRP) of food aid commodities. This represents a significant and welcome tool for American food assistance, which has historically consisted of US-grown commodities that are sent on US flag-bearing ships to developing countries. Under the proposed bill, LRP food aid will grow from very small pilot programs to $40 million per year.
...Locally-procured commodities are on average one-third less expensive, and arrive in communities two-thirds faster, than equivalent commodities shipped from the US.
Mercy Corps also strongly supports the bill’s increase of cash resources within US food aid programs, which would reduce aid organizations’ dependence on monetization programs. Monetization forces aid groups to sell food commodities in a given country, and then use the acquired cash to fund related programs, such as nutrition and health. Directly receiving cash-based assistance is a much more efficient and flexible way to provide aid.
By reducing the US Government’s reliance on using monetization to fund program expenses, these reforms would reduce the amount of money currently lost through the monetization process by roughly half. This will enable US taxpayers to get a far better bang for their food aid buck.