Adam Smith

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Bipartisan support in Congress AGAINST feeding the hungry – what’s next for food aid reform | 

Congress has again preserved American exceptionalism, and in so doing ensured millions more people in poor countries will go hungry.

The Obama Administration has proposed changing our food aid system, which nearly all aid and development experts agree is inefficient and self-serving due to the uniquely American requirement that we buy food here from American farmers and ship it overseas on American ships. On Wednesday, the House had a chance to change this by voting on legislation to reform food aid – a bill regarded by many as a very modest step in the right direction.

The arguments against it were bipartisan and focused mostly on how the changes would affect us, as opposed to the needy overseas:

  • “[Food aid] is not broken. It is about humanitarian, economic and national security…We don’t need to destroy something that’s worked for fifty years,” claimed Rep. John Garamendi of California.
  • Rep. Nick Rahall, from West Virgina, argued, “The effect would be to undermine the integrity of our maritime fleet…Once these jobs are gone, they’re gone forever.”
  • And Rep. Rob Andrews from New Jersey worried the act would open the door to “corruption” of US food aid in poor countries. Another representative claimed that food aid would no longer be branded with the American flag.

Ed Royce, a Republican who represents California’s 39th district and co-authored the amendment aimd at reforming food aid, called those ideas “myths.” And they are. Royce chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee and knows what he’s talking about.

“We are not talking about sending bags of cash so they can spend it on whatever they want,” he explained. “US labels will still be prominent. The defense department has said this will not affect military readiness in any way.”

He made an impassioned plea for changes to our “archaic” food system: “Our food aid takes too long to arrive.” He cited a former official who testified, “I watched people die, waiting for food aid to arrive.”

But his pleas fell on largely deaf ears. The House voted down the amendment, 220 to 203. Continue reading

Coming Tuesday: Forum on “reforming aid, transforming the world” | 

Tuesday afternoon, Global Washington will host a public discussion on foreign aid — why we do it and how to do it better — at the UW’s Kane Hall, room 120.

The event, entitled “Reforming Aid, Transforming the World,” is open to the public, with registration starting at 3:30 p.m. and at a cost of $10 to non-members.

Moderated by Carol Welch, a development policy expert for the Gates Foundation, speakers include a member of Congress, an aid advocate from Oxfam, a representative of World Vision and an official from USAID. The event couldn’t be more timely. As Global Washington says:

Even in a challenging economy, many policymakers believe that foreign assistance is an integral part of the U.S. budget. The United States can be a leader in creating a more stable and prosperous world–improving global health, alleviating poverty, and combating injustice. But in order to do so, aid projects must actually be helping. Limited resources must be used as efficiently as possible.

Sure, but isn’t there a more fundamental question here? Many in Congress seem to be inclined to cut foreign aid, even though it represents less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Continue reading