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Food Aid Reform Proposal Should Garner Bipartisan Support

“Unfortunately, American food assistance today is far less efficient and effective than it could be,” Joshua Bolten, managing director of Rock Creek Global Advisors and former chief of staff to President George W. Bush, and John Podesta, chair of the Center for American Progress and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, adding, “The country needs a better approach, and [President Obama's] 2014 budget provides one.” If “U.S. aid programs [were] allowed to purchase food locally from farmers in or near crisis regions … [t]he potential savings would be stunning,” they write, noting several reforms proposed in the budget request.

“Some worry that shifting away from U.S. crop purchases could weaken political support for food aid assistance,” Bolten and Podesta write. “But we think most Americans will support reforms that save more lives, regardless of where the food is grown,” they state, adding, “They will rightly not understand why, with U.S. farm exports booming, their tax dollars need to be spent to subsidize more exports, providing less food aid, while undermining poor countries’ efforts to reduce their dependence on aid.” However, “getting these sensible reforms through Congress won’t be easy,” they say, noting “the Obama administration is struggling with the House and Senate, both of which have failed to include significant reforms in their respective farm bills.” Bolten and Podesta conclude, “If ever there was an issue on which big-hearted humanitarians and tightfisted fiscal hawks should find common purpose, food aid reform is it. Millions around the world are counting on us” (6/13).