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"The American Farm Bureau Federation on Wednesday signaled that it is on board with making it easier for U.S. international food aid dollars to be spent on locally sourced products in addition to American commodities. In an op-ed published in the Tennessean, Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall joined Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and committee member Chris Coons (D-Del.) in calling for "modernizing" Food for Peace, a $1.8 billion program that helps feed people abroad during humanitarian crises. "The reality is that, while our country provides the lion’s share of global food aid, it represents only 0.2 percent of total U.S. agricultural output," they wrote. "Modernizing Food for Peace will save millions of lives without undermining our farmers, who will continue to be a key component of the Food for Peace program." Corker and Coons have long championed reforming the way food aid is delivered. They have pushed for approval for food to be procured closer to areas in need, as well as for cash-based assistance to be expanded and for lifting requirements that 50 percent of all food aid be shipped overseas aboard U.S.-flagged vessels. Proposals to that effect, however, have faced resistance from various interests, notably farm-state lawmakers and the U.S. agriculture industry. Those forces have argued that any changes to food aid should be discussed as part of the farm bill, which authorizes Food for Peace, and they have voiced concerns that replacing commodities with cash payments could undermine public support for the program and leave it vulnerable to abuse..."It was the first time I've seen a farm group formally endorse a more flexible approach," Dan Glickman, who served as Agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration, told POLITICO. Glickman, who is now highly involved in the food-aid space, lauded the op-ed during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing this morning...Andrew Natsios, who served as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Bush administration and has long advocated for revamping how food aid is delivered, also praised the Farm Bureau's stance during the hearing. He then slammed the shipping industry for being staunchly opposed to reform...During Wednesday's hearing, food aid experts and numerous lawmakers on both sides of the aisle also criticized the Trump administration's fiscal 2019 budget proposal, which again called for eliminating the Food for Peace program."

Posted February 15th, 2018