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Amending U.S. Farm Bill Could Save Money, Help Food Aid Reach Millions More

In this post in the Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Kelly Hauser, agriculture policy manager at ONE, writes that an amendment to the U.S. farm bill “could save money and lives in Africa.” “The farm bill is an unwieldy five-year bill dedicated to shaping the U.S. government’s policies and spending on energy, farm subsidies, food stamps, conservation policies, and international agricultural trade, which includes the largest donor food aid program in the world, known as ‘Food for Peace,'” she writes, adding, “By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, Congress has the opportunity to make changes to the farm bill that would allow U.S. food assistance to reach six million more people with the same amount of funding.”

Hauser highlights “a pilot program to test the novel idea of purchasing food aid close to its intended destination,” funded by Congress through the 2008 farm bill, noting “preliminary results of the pilot have been very positive, demonstrating that buying local grains can cut food aid costs by 50 percent, save months of time, and improve farmers’ incomes, storage practices and understanding of markets.” She continues, “Given these savings, I’ve calculated that if Congress passed an amendment to the farm bill to allow just 25 percent of Food for Peace food aid grains to be purchased closer to their destination, the U.S. government could save almost $200 million in Fiscal Year 2013 and reach six million more people — almost exactly the shortfall in the Sahel.” She concludes, “[T]here are lives to be saved. ONE’s three million members would like to see Congress put special interests aside and do the best it can to accomplish that mission — for the Sahel and for future humanitarian crises” (6/27).