Mercy Corps Director of Policy and Advocacy Jeremy Konyndyk today responded to the Farm Bill that was passed by the House Agriculture Committee on July 12, 2012. The existing Farm Bill, the primary vehicle for the United States’ global food assistance, is due to expire in September 2012.
Mr. Konyndyk issued the following statement:
“The House Agriculture Committee’s version of the bill is a mixed bag: it takes a better approach towards programs that seek to prevent new crises and reduce chronic hunger, but it also misses an important opportunity to institute reforms and efficiencies that would enable US food aid dollars to stretch considerably further. In this respect it is almost a mirror image of the Senate bill, and we hope that the best elements of each chamber’s approach can be reconciled in the final conference bill.
“On the positive side, the House version would sustain the last Farm Bill’s practice of ensuring minimum core support for programs that combat chronic hunger. The Committee recognized that while it is important to enable an appropriate balance between emergency and chronic needs – at a time when both types of needs exist in places like the Horn of Africa and the Sahel – a reasonable minimum allocation for developmental food aid is critical to ensuring that vulnerable countries will not see their long-term hunger funds curtailed or terminated. Given that countries facing chronic hunger also tend to be the most vulnerable to new emergencies, this support is critical to averting and mitigating new crises.”
However, the House version also ignored important reforms proposed by the Senate. These reforms would reduce the amount of money that taxpayers lose through the excessive use of “monetization” – the process of selling food commodities to fund development programs – by roughly half. These reforms would enable US taxpayers to get a far better bang for their food aid buck, and by ignoring them the House is literally leaving money on the table.
“The Senate version also sustained the last Farm Bill’s authorization of a Local and Regional Purchase (LRP) program. As one of the largest American organizations focused on alleviating hunger in the developing world, Mercy Corps has found that LRP is a critical tool, particularly in environments where shipping commodities from the US would be both slower and more expensive. A review of Mercy Corps’ LRP interventions found that locally-procured commodities, in appropriate environments, are on average one-third less expensive, and arrive in communities two-thirds faster, than equivalent commodities shipped from the US.”
The Senate Agriculture Committee’s version of the Farm Bill passed the full Senate in June. Floor consideration of the House version of the bill has not yet been scheduled. When enacted, the new bill will govern US agriculture and food assistance policy for five years.