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Development Experts Praise Proposed Changes To Food Aid Program In FY14 Budget Request

“Civil society groups [in the U.S.] are praising parts of President Barack Obama’s newly unveiled [FY 2014 budget request], saying it appears to build on momentum gathered in recent years toward a robust overhaul of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the country’s main foreign aid agency,” Inter Press Service reports. “They point particularly to long-demanded changes to the structuring of the U.S. food aid program,” the news service writes, noting the changes include more flexibility in where food aid can be purchased and an end to “monetization,” a practice allowing aid agencies to resell U.S.-grown food in local markets in return for cash (Fossett, 4/12). “The U.S. is the world’s largest food aid donor but almost all of its support is tied to 1950s rules requiring food to be bought from American farmers and sent abroad on U.S.-flagged ships,” The Guardian writes, adding, “Critics have argued for years that these restrictions raise prices, delay deliveries, damage developing countries’ markets and do little to end dependence on foreign assistance” (Provost, 4/11).

“The changes make the food aid system more efficient and flexible, and will help feed four million more people every year, said Rajiv Shah, the administrator of [USAID] in an address to a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), webcast live on Wednesday evening,” IRIN reports (4/11). “U.S. agriculture would continue to play a role under the proposed reforms, said Shah, particularly in terms of high-nutrition fortified foods that are small and easy to ship. Even if purchased locally, U.S.-funded food aid will still be branded ‘from the American people,’ he added,” The Guardian reports (4/11). Devex’s “Pennsylvania Ave.” blog provides reaction to Obama’s FY14 budget request from several global aid leaders (Rosenkrantz, 4/11). The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports that Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Appropriations panel on State and Foreign Operations, “is backing President Obama’s call for an overhaul of the nation’s $1.5 billion food aid program,” and notes “Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to testify before the subcommittee about the president’s budget on April 17” (Pecquet, 4/11). USAID’s website provides a description of the proposed changes to the U.S. food program made under the FY14 budget request (4/12).