WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2015 - The future of Feed the Future is looking a bit murky. The Obama administration is eager to get Congress to write the $1 billion-a-year initiative into law to ensure that it has a future under the next president. But a House-passed authorization bill stalled in the Senate at the end of the last Congress and hasnt moved through either chamber so far this year.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over Feed the Future since it is run out of the U.S. Agency for International Development, approved a new version of the bill in April, the Global Food Security Act (HR 1567). But the measure has never reached the House floor. Meanwhile, commodity groups and House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, want to see the bill revised to ensure that the Agriculture Department, the private sector and the land grant universities all have a role in Feed the Future that is written into law.

Doing that would make sure that production agriculture and the systems associated with processing and growing food have a voice in the program, Conaway tells Agri-Pulse. Were not ready to sign off on the bill, he said.

Some farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, and development organizations sent letters to Capitol Hill in June and again last month making their case for ensuring that USAID has to coordinate with USDA and the agriculture sector.

U.S. farmers and ranchers have decades of expertise across a broad range of agricultural production systems, along with a variety of technologies that can advance best practices, the June letter said. U.S. agribusiness can play an important role in strengthening markets, developing sustainable supply chains, and supporting knowledge transfer efforts.

The September letter calls for establishing platforms for regular consultation and collaboration between government agencies and the private sector, including but not limited to agricultural commodity and farmer organizations and agribusinesses.

The letters were also signed by former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and former Nebraska congressman Douglas Bereuter, who are co-chairs of the Global Agriculture Development Initiative of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Commodity groups like the way that the Obama administration has coordinated with USDA and the private sector and want to make sure that continues. As it stands now, “there’s no real understanding, no real delineation or requirement, that the next USAID administrator” continue coordinating with USDA,” said Hanna Abou-El-Seoud, who lobbies on food-aid issues for the American Soybean Association.

Feed the Future was first developed during the George W. Bush administration and was formalized under President Obama as part of a 2009 commitment to address food insecurity in poor countries. But the White House never sought congressional authorization for the initiative until last year, which could leave the effort in limbo when Obama leaves office.

Eric Munoz, who follows the issue for Oxfam America, a group that has evaluated Feed the Future projects and given the initiative relatively high marks, said its unfortunate that this bill was introduced in March, and committees are still in the process of gathering input. I do believe that this has slowed passage of the bill. However, there is an opportunity to make sure (the agriculture communitys) ideas are put forward for consideration by Congress as this bill moves forward to become law.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on food security Wednesday and another on food aid reform. The food security hearing will focus on the need to provide adequate nutrition to children. The witnesses will include Roger Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who has been tracking Feed the Future nutrition projects in Guatemala and elsewhere.


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