WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2014 - The House is set to pass a bill this week that would provide legal authority for the first time to President Obama's Feed the Future initiative, a $1-billion-a-year effort to increase food production and combat hunger in 19 target countries.

The bill, H.R. 5656, was scaled back to cover just one year, 2015, but supporters say that would be a good start. Although Congress has agreed to fund the initiative, the White House never sought statutory authority for it, which has raised concerns within the administration and among some anti-hunger advocates that the initiative could be rolled back or eliminated by a future Congress or president.

House aides expected the bill to be on Tuesday's suspension calendar but it was not. Prospects for the bill in the Senate are uncertain. A spokesman for Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., who is lead sponsor of a similar, but longer-term bill, said there was no definitive word Monday on whether or when the Senate would move the House bill.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, D-N.J., seemed doubtful Monday evening the Senate would move a bill before Congress adjourns.  “I’m not sure we could accept the House bill the way it is because I haven’t seen it,” he told Agri-Pulse.

Providing the initiative with statutory authority would put it on similar footing as former President George W. Bush's popular PEPFAR initiative for fighting AIDS globally. The House bill would require the administration to produce a report detailing the initiative's progress. The report would have to include an analysis of its impact by gender and lay out benchmarks and strategies for improving the target countries.

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Feed the Future grew out of a commitment that Obama and other G8 leaders launched in 2009 to increase food production in the wake of food price spikes that provoked riots in some countries. The initiative works in cooperation with host countries, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to set up demonstration projects for increasing crop yields, build and improve supply chains and to reduce malnutrition. The goal is for host countries to then take up and expand successful ideas.

Starting in 2012, corporate giants such as DuPont and Cargill committed funding to augment the efforts led by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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