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White House FY14 Budget Request Includes Expected Changes To Food Aid Program

President Obama unveiled a $3.8 trillion FY 2014 budget request on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse/GlobalPost reports (4/10). “As expected, the budget proposes the most sweeping change in U.S. food aid in decades, with a plan intended to feed more people and deliver food more quickly,” according to Reuters (Zengerle/Abbott, 4/10). “Obama’s proposal would move the Food for Peace program from the Department of Agriculture to the U.S. Agency for International Development,” and would allow the agency “the flexibility to use food aid funding to ‘purchase food from markets near crises, or for interventions such as cash transfers and vouchers,'” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog notes (Pecquet, 4/10). “Administration officials believe the U.S. could make some of its foreign aid more efficient and expedient by purchasing the food it donates from local and regional sellers,” rather than shipping it overseas from U.S. farmers, the Wall Street Journal writes (Hughes et al., 4/10). “The reforms would also end monetization, or the practice in which [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] sell their leftover, American relief food in local markets in order to fund some of their non-food programs, like clinics and school books,” The Atlantic reports, adding, “The GAO says monetization is wasteful — it costs an average of 25 cents on every taxpayer dollar spent on food aid” (Khazan, 4/10).

The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports that the $1.5 billion proposal to change the food aid program “set[s] up a bruising battle on Capitol Hill that cuts across party lines” (4/10). “Attempts by previous administrations to change the program were opposed by farm-state lawmakers and the agricultural and maritime lobbies, which argued that [the current system] provided economic benefits and jobs at home,” the Washington Post writes. The newspaper notes, “In a February letter [.pdf] to President Obama, 21 senators from both parties said the existing program … was ‘important to American farmers and shippers and developing nations around the world'” (DeYoung, 4/10).