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Food aid faces nearly 30% cut under House budget proposal

DANIEL LOOKER 02/11/2011 @ 4:06pm Business Editor


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 October.

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.

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