WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today presided over a hearing on the current status of U.S. international food assistance efforts and advocated for proposed reforms to the Food for Peace program that would provide more food faster to those in need without additional taxpayer resources.
“Increasing flexibility in the Food for Peace program would provide up to $440 million in savings, allowing the U.S. to reach as many as 12 million more starving people, up to two and a half months faster, in some cases,” said Corker. “For many around the globe we are not yet reaching but could, it is a matter of life and death. I hope out of this hearing something is going to occur where we will do the things necessary to make sure that our U.S. dollars help those people that today… are starving because of special interests here in our own nation.”
In February, Corker and Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) reintroduced the bipartisan Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015 that that will free up as much as $440 million annually through greater efficiencies in delivering aid. Current law requires 100 percent of food aid to be U.S.-purchased commodities and 50 percent of that to be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. The Corker-Coons legislation would provide flexibility from these requirements by allowing locally purchased food items to compete with products from the U.S., whichever is most-cost effective, and allow USAID to ship food on vessels that are readily available.
“While recent reforms in the Farm Bill provide some administrative funds to be used for such things as locally and regionally purchased food aid or food vouchers, this limited flexibility must be executed in tandem with U.S.-purchased commodities. The cargo and commodity preferences create inefficiencies that undermine our ability to get maximum impact in addressing poverty and suffering from our U.S. food aid dollars,” added Corker.
The committee heard testimony today from the Director of the Office of Food for Peace at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as representatives from humanitarian relief organizations, academia, and the farming community. Among the topics discussed were how inefficiencies in food aid delivery have harmed the ability of the United States to respond effectively to humanitarian crises, like the conflict in Syria.
“In some cases where U.S. national security interests are at stake, like in Syria and other regions in conflict, U.S. food aid plays an important role in U.S. policy and engagement, and these interventions would not be possible if we relied on U.S.-purchased commodities,” said Corker.