House committee advances Feed the Future authorization

By Whitney Forman-Cook

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WASHINGTON, April 23, 2015 - The House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced an amended bill that would provide the first congressional authorization for the Obama administration's Feed the Future initiative.

The Global Food Security Act (HR 1567), approved by a voice vote, would help “break the cycle of dependency on U.S. international food aid” and provide “a road map for future work” in the advancement of agriculture technology and child nutrition abroad, said Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif.

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The bill would authorize $1 billion for fiscal year 2016 to help combat hunger and malnutrition in select “focus” countries around the world. It was first developed during the George W. Bush administration and was formalized under President Obama but hasn't secured statutory authorization from Congress to date.

Royce said that in December, in the previous Congress, the House passed “a substantially similar measure” but the bill stalled in the Senate. The amended bill “enhances congressional oversight and forces greater cooperation across the many agencies engaged in food and agricultural assistance,” Royce said.

The committee's ranking member, Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Feed the Future “has made a real difference in fighting world hunger, poverty and malnutrition.”

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is responsible for administering Feed the Future, the initiative helped more than 12.5 million children receive nutrition interventions and provided nearly 7 million farmers with new technologies and management practices in 2013 alone. Launched in 2010, the program is helping food insecure countries (19 at present) develop strategic plans to create resilient food systems and improve nutrition, particularly among women and children.

The bill's lead sponsor, Chris Smith, R-N.J., said the “program strengthens nutrition especially for children during the critical first 1,000 days of their lives… If we get it right, both mother and child are exponentially more healthy going forward.” 

Smith said the bill would also contribute to long-term solutions for food insecure countries, so the U.S. can decrease the amount of emergency and other food aid it sends internationally, he continued.

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Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, offered an amendment, approved by voice vote, that would “make clean water and sanitization part of the discussion when we talk about food security.”

“The lesson here is that you can give a child all the food in the world, but without clean water, it won't do any good,” Poe said.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., blocked passage of the House's Feed the Future bill in December because he wanted to consider it along with a proposal to overhaul Food for Peace, the main U.S. food aid program.

His Food for Peace Reform Act (S 525) would allow dollars to be used to purchase commodities overseas, not just from American producers. The bill also would strike down a requirement, known as cargo preference, that at least half of Food for Peace commodities be shipped on U.S.-flag carriers.

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