The Farm Bill Conference meeting kicked off Wednesday with a strong statement from Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, calling for “common sense” reforms to the U.S. international food aid program Food for Peace.
The question remains — will his plea fall on a congressional conference committee that is too wrapped up with domestic spending disagreements to worry about reforming international programs this year?
Still, Royce’s opening statement should encourage reform advocates who have been lobbying to end the practice of food aid monetization and to build in more flexibility for how food aid money gets spent. He called on Congress to require that development groups recover 70 percent of the shipping and procurement costs associated monetization (donating U.S.-produced food commodities to NGOs who then sell them abroad to fund programs) and allow for flexible spending on 20 percent of food aid funding instead of limiting that money to the procurement of in-kind U.S. food commodities.
Finally, the congressman advocated for the re-authorization and expansion of the Local and Regional Procurement program established under the 2008 Farm Bill, which would allow for more local food sourcing rather than buying American produce and shipping it overseas.
“In the broader bill, there are areas where the House and Senate are far apart. But there are other areas where compromise can and should be easy … I expect we will deliver,” Royce said in his statement.
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