Following in the footsteps of the Senate, the House of Representatives today — via a panel in charge of deciding the outcome of agricultural funding — refused to consider the President’s request to fundamentally change America’s food aid program that’s been more or less in place since the Cold War.
Obama’s idea was to use almost half of the latest White House budget proposal for the major U.S food aid program, cleverly coined “Food for Peace”, to replace American-grown food with food purchased from nations near hunger zones.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean the U.S would buy food from hunger-stricken nations and ferry it over to your local super market. The Food for Peace program is meant to provide food aid to foreign countries in need of it. Charles Abbott details the root cause of the measure’s failure to even be considered:
Its plan ran into a buzz-saw of lobbying by farm groups, food processors, shippers and others who favor the continued purchase of food in the United States and shipping it to needy countries on U.S.-flagged vessels.
The House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture on Wednesday opted to keep Food for Peace under its control, and at the same time cut the program by 20 percent to $1.15 billion for the next fiscal year. A staff worker said the cut was part of controlling the federal deficit.
Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro lamented the “outright rejection” of a proposal that she said deserved consideration.
So, no go on a plan meant to deliver food aid faster and more efficaciously to needy nations, while also cutting cost by eliminating the hugely expensive endeavor of shipping food thousands of miles; the House of Representatives also cut the program by 20 percent as if to say, “your move, hippies”.
Fortunately, Abbott notes that Obama still has a chance to reform food aid with legislation currently being considered by Congress:
Although the farm bills pending in the House and Senate would also keep Food for Peace in its current form, the administration still has a few chances to win its way.
Congress is in the early stages of writing government funding bills for fiscal 2014, which can be a vehicle to remodel programs. Leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee also filed a bill on May 22 to implement the White House proposal. It was sent to four committees for consideration.
(Photo by flickr user Feed my Starving Children)