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Proposed Food Aid Reform Garners Mixed Reaction From Lawmakers, AP Reports

“Rajiv Shah, the administrator of [USAID], said Tuesday that the system of shipping U.S.-grown food abroad has been inefficient and that changes are necessary as a humanitarian crisis in Syria and recent droughts in Africa sap food aid from other countries in need,” the Associated Press reports. “The Obama administration last week proposed shifting food aid money to more flexible accounts that allow for cash purchases abroad or from U.S. farmers, saying such a move would be more efficient,” the news agency notes. According to the AP, “Congress would have to approve such a shift in resources, and the Obama administration is hoping that its proposal will resonate not only with those lawmakers with an interest in food aid but also those looking to cut spending or those with a faith-based concern for starving people overseas.”

However, “there doesn’t appear to be much support for the idea on Capitol Hill,” the news agency writes. “The proposal has support from a few key lawmakers, including the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, California Rep. Ed Royce,” the AP notes, adding, “Some conservatives may support the idea due to the administration’s estimate that the shift could save $500 million over 10 years.” But “many are skeptical,” the news agency continues. “The agricultural and shipping industries have long profited from the current program, dubbed ‘Food for Peace’ when it was founded during the Cold War to deal with U.S. farm surpluses and boost the nation’s image abroad,” the AP writes, noting, “Their allies in Congress have backed them up, with a bipartisan group of 21 senators writing the Obama administration in opposition to the idea even before it was proposed” (Jalonick, 4/16).