Food for Peace has been an unqualified American success story, but it was enacted during the Eisenhower administration. While it has been updated from time to time, it is due for a thorough modernization. That’s why I am pleased to report that my former Senate Foreign Relations Committee colleagues Chairman Bob Corker (R, Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D, Del.) and Chairman Ed Royce and Congressman Blumenauer in the House have come up with a solid plan to bring Food For Peace into the 21st Century and extend its reach to nine million additional recipients--and save the lives of 40,000 children a year who would otherwise die of starvation--without spending a single additional taxpayer dime.
Their proposal, which includes several ideas that I have supported over the years, would streamline the Food for Peace process and make the program more flexible. Its backbone would remain: we would continue to ship large amounts of grain and other commodities from America’s farms to needy countries overseas.
But numerous academic and government studies have shown that we can be far more effective--and save money--if we allow the program to supplement U.S. crops with foods sourced locally or in the region much closer to those who are starving. They propose allowing a flexible mix of American, local and regionally-sourced foods. This matches the way other food donors operate.
Locally sourced food can reach emergency situations faster. And many of the worst cases of hunger and starvation are in conflict zones--like Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen--where it is difficult or even impossible to import food from the United States. Using regionally sourced food would save up to $300 million each year, which could feed nine million more people.
The proposal in the Corker-Coons and the Royce/Blumenauer Food for Peace modernization plan would also continue the current practice of monetization--selling U.S. commodities in overseas markets and using the money to fund agricultural development--but make it optional. The other reforms will probably lower the demand for monetization.
These changes would not come at the expense of American farmers. Food from the U.S. would still be needed to meet longer term needs. That’s why the American Farm Bureau Federation, the leading voice for American farmers, supports these plans. Their backing should help us take a big step forward in the fight against global hunger.
With the bipartisan endorsement of these thoughtful legislators and the support of America’s farmers, I am hopeful that this long-overdue modernization can become U.S. policy promptly so that we can begin right away to help more starving people.