More than 17 million people could receive life-saving food aid at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers if Congress cuts red-tape in the U.S. farm bill. A new report from international relief and development organizations Oxfam America and American Jewish World Service (AJWS) showed that lifting regulations, which cost taxpayers more than $491 million, could enable food aid to reach millions more people and make the programs significantly more effective and cost efficient.
The report can be viewed here.
Reaching 17 million additional people is the equivalent to feeding every person in Michigan, Oklahoma and Iowa combined. Cutting red tape would also allow the United States to respond to hunger crises up to 14 weeks faster.
“How often do we have the chance to reach millions more people with life-saving assistance without asking taxpayers for a dime?” said Paul O’Brien, vice president for policy and campaigns at Oxfam America. “Save lives. Save tax dollars. This is a no-brainer.”
"Our one-size-fits-all food aid system is outdated, but Congress has the opportunity to fix it with this year's farm bill reauthorization," said Timi Gerson, director of advocacy at AJWS. "Our research shows we can reach millions more hungry people by passing long overdue reforms, so why wait?"
The report puts a human face on the negotiations over the farm bill in Washington, DC, calculating the number of additional people U.S. food aid programs could reach if long-overdue reforms are enacted. This includes increasing flexibility in food aid programs to allow for the local and regional purchase (LRP) of food, as well as ending the monetization of U.S. food aid programs whereby aid agencies are forced to sell off U.S. food in developing country markets to finance development projects.
The report finds that these reforms would allow food to reach millions more hungry people much quicker during crises and build self-sufficiency in local communities. It also finds that even conservative approaches to these reforms would cut hundreds of millions of dollars in waste and enable life-saving aid to reach millions of additional people facing crisis.
"Food aid is a vital part of U.S. foreign policy, but we are shortchanging millions of hungry people with unnecessary red tape," said Gerson. "U.S. policies are ripe for reforms that will save lives now and reduce the need for aid later by enabling local farmers to thrive."
“In this budget climate there can be no justification for turning down the chance to spend tax-dollars more wisely,” said O’Brien. “Members of Congress face a clear choice: stick with the same old policies that prop up special interest, or reform the program and stand up for American taxpayers and hungry people around the world.”