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Food aid faces nearly 30% cut under House budget proposal
In 2008, former senators and presidential candidates George
McGovern (D-SD) and Bob Dole
(R-KS) earned the World Food Prize for their bipartisan achievement,
convincing Congress to pass a global school lunch program that feeds hungry
students in poor nations.
This week the House Appropriations Committee’s list of
proposed budget cuts included trimming more than half a billion dollars ($544
million) from international food aid grants. It would hit the McGovern-Dole
program hard, as well as the older Food for Peace Program that sends aid to
fight starvation after natural disasters and crop failures≠.
At a time when workers on the ground in food-deficit
countries in Africa and elsewhere are already seeing food hoarding and more gaunt
children, that proposal is drawing criticism from food aid organizations.
Ellen Levinson, executive director of the Alliance for
Global Food Security, says the cut would trim 29% from the amount the Obama
Administration had requested for the 2011 fiscal year, which began last
The Administration had asked
for $1.69 billion for the Food for Peace program, which is run by U.S. AID and
$210 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and
Child Nutrition Program, which is run by USDA.
Levinson told Agriculture.com that the
entire budget for international affairs, including the State Department, is
just over 1% of the federal budget. Food aid is much less.
“While only a small part of the U.S. international
affairs budget, the funding requested for the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole
Programs for FY 2011 would nonetheless help nearly 50 million people,” Levinson
and other food aid groups said in a letter to the head of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural
Development, FDA and Related Agencies.
Levinson estimates the cuts would
affect about12 million hungry people and the timing couldn’t be worse.
“When prices get high in developing
countries that import a lot of their food, there is a little bit of a lag, and
then it hits them really hard,” she said.
The food aid groups may have a tough
battle ahead. A recent PEW poll shows that out of 13 areas of federal spending,
“global poverty aid” had the least public support. More than 40% of those
polled favor cutting spending on global poverty aid, while less than 30% want
to spend more. Even agriculture, which ranks fourth from the bottom in support,
had a plurality of more than 30% wanting to increase spending. Education ranked
at the top of the list in support.
Levinson thinks that one reason the
public thinks the U.S. spends so much on foreign food assistance is that it
sees aid going to all of the disasters covered on cable TV—the earthquake in
Haiti, for example.
Food aid also benefits this country,
“When it comes to food aid, most of the
money is spent here to buy our commodities,” she said.
Levinson said it will be difficult for
Congress to find the savings in spending by looking only at nondefense
discretionary spending that also ignores social security.
“I think the Senate, I hope, will try
to look at the bigger picture and not try to balance the budget on
discretionary spending and nondefense programs,” she said.
Here’s more on information on food aid programs.