Protect International Food Aid

Published 26. Mar 2024

Dear Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member Scott,

With 783 million people around the world chronically, seasonally hungry and 45 million children suffering from a form of severe malnutrition called wasting, we are continuing to face a global hunger crisis. We are grateful for your support for Food for Peace Title II (P.L. 480), which is providing life-saving aid and helping communities around the world be able to feed themselves.

We are concerned that several provisions in the American Farmers Feed the World Act (H.R. 4293), which is before your committee, would weaken the quality and effectiveness of emergency programs and result in the near or complete loss of non-emergency programs in Food for Peace, which are uniquely helping communities in very challenging contexts become self-reliant. We urge you to instead protect the decades of thoughtful, bipartisan modernizations to Food for Peace that the Agriculture Committee has fought to enact.

As implementers of and advocates for Food for Peace Title II, we strongly support the use of U.S. commodities – particularly in protracted crises where a reliable pipeline of high-quality U.S. food is lifesaving. We are grateful to U.S. farmers, ranchers, and producers for their partnership in this program, which is celebrating its 70th year.

Our longstanding commitment to Food for Peace causes us to have deep concerns about several provisions in H.R. 4293. This legislation is no doubt well-intentioned, but it rests on the premise that Food for Peace Title II is shifting from a commodity-based program to a cash-based program. This is not borne out by the data. Since Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, USAID has increased its spending on U.S. commodities and decreased spending on market-based assistance, which includes all local and regional procurement, cash transfers, and vouchers within Food for Peace. In FY2022, market-based assistance made up just 0.39% of Food for Peace Title II funding.

We have seen the positive impact emergency and non-emergency Food for Peace programs have had on families. As such, we are particularly concerned about H.R. 4293 provisions that:

  • Require at least 50% of Food for Peace Title II resources be used for commodity purchases and ocean freight;
  • Cut Section 202(e) resources from 7.5%-20% of overall funding to 5%-10%; and
  • Transfer administration of Food for Peace Title II from USAID to USDA.

Commodity purchases and ocean freight have averaged 40 to 42% of program funds over the last several years. Locking in a minimum of 50% would decrease the funding available for inland freight and internal transportation, storage, and handling (ITSH) of commodities. With insufficient resources available to transport, store, and monitor commodities up to and at their destinations, there is a real risk that implementers would be unable to get food from the port of arrival to rural, inland areas – often where it is needed most.

Section 202(e) of the Food for Peace Act authorizes funding for the range of activities necessary to implement quality emergency food aid distribution beyond the food itself. This includes targeting, oversight, and evaluation to ensure food is reaching the right people. It also pays for the basic tools of food distribution – scales, buckets, tents, and staff. In addition, 202(e) funds the staff and training needed to distribute Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) in accordance with required protocols for assessing, monitoring, and treating severely malnourished children.

Accordingly, halving 202(e) resources would seriously damage Food for Peace’s ability to ensure that U.S. food reaches the intended beneficiaries in the right proportions. It would also jeopardize the efficacy of malnutrition treatment for children. This is especially concerning as more than a million children die each year from acute malnutrition.

The proposed cuts to 202(e) would also result in the loss of all Food for Peace Title II non-emergency programs, since it is the primary funding source for these programs that are designed to address the root causes of hunger. Food for Peace non-emergency programs work with small farming and herding communities to build resilience and self-reliance. This is some of our most impactful programming, and research shows that over the long run these investments save $3 for every $1 invested, resulting in a more efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars.4 Food for Peace non-emergency programs are uniquely focused on highly vulnerable communities that are not yet equipped for more advanced Feed the Future programming, helping to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development interventions. Losing them would leave communities dependent on food aid.

Finally, we are concerned that H.R. 4293 would transfer authority over Food for Peace Title II from USAID to USDA. With missions in over 80 countries that manage emergency and long-term development programs, USAID has decades of experience programming food aid in humanitarian contexts to save lives and support stable futures. USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, which implements Food for Peace Title II, has 1,600 employees with expertise in emergency food distribution, logistics, water management, nutrition, and protection of civilians. While we enjoy strong partnerships with USDA, such a transfer of authority would necessitate a bureaucratic overhaul, including requiring USDA to hire, train, and deploy significant numbers of new staff. The likely result would be delays in food aid distribution and implementing challenges where lives are at stake.

Through the last four consecutive Farm Bill reauthorizations, Agriculture Committees have worked thoughtfully and deliberately to increase efficiency and effectiveness in Food for Peace Title II. The provisions of H.R. 4293 addressed above would overturn these bipartisan achievements. We urge you to ensure they are excluded from the Farm Bill.

Thank you for your leadership in support of Food for Peace Title II and all international food aid programs. We look forward to continuing to work with you and your staff to ensure Food for Peace is working to reduce global hunger and helping all farmers be able to feed their families and communities.

Dr. Charles Owubah
Action Against Hunger

Rev. Eugene Cho
Bread for the World

Michelle Nunn
President and CEO

Sean Callahan
President and CEO
Catholic Relief Services

Daniel Speckhard
President & CEO
Corus International

Mark Viso
President & CEO
Food for the Hungry

Mark Hetfield
President & CEO

Jeff Meer
US Executive Director
Humanity & Inclusion

Tom Hart
President & CEO

Ahmed Shehata
Islamic Relief USA

Ann Graber Hershberger
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee U.S

Tjada D’Oyen McKenna
Chief Executive Officer
Mercy Corps

Bernice Romero
Executive Director
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) USA

Abby Maxman
President & CEO
Oxfam America

James Morgan
Physicians for Peace