Food aid groups lobby Obama
A group of 15 large food aid organizations, collectively known as the Alliance for Global Food Security, are urging the Obama administration and Congress to step up the country's commitment to sufficient resources for agricultural development, nutrition and food assistance programs to help developing populations overcome hunger.
Alliance members, such as Land O'Lakes, Africare, Feed the Children, United Methodist Committee on Relief, and World Vision, provide food relief services through funds, food and other sources supplied by the government. They operate in about 100 developing countries.
'Our goal is to assure that food security-related policies, including food aid, emergency response, agriculture development and nutrition, address the realities that alliance members experience firsthand in the field and therefore are not just theoretical constructs,' said Ellen Levinson, executive director of the alliance, in a statement on Friday.
'By offering information about gaps in current U.S. program approaches and recommending specific changes in legislation and administrative procedures, we hope our nation's efforts to address the food and hunger crisis will have greater and more lasting impact,' she said.
The alliance offered the administration and lawmakers what it believes is an immediate, cohesive food security strategy to follow.
First, the alliance recommends establishing global food security as a foreign aid priority. The special assistant to the president for food and agriculture, a White House position created in 1988, can immediately be designated as the president's coordinator for global food security policy and charged with developing and implementing the food security strategy in consultation with relevant government agencies and non-governmental organizations, the alliance said.
Next, when finalizing funding levels for fiscal year 2009 and developing the fiscal 2010 budget, the alliance said the administration should fully fund P.L. 480 Title II food aid at the authorized level of $2.5 billion, increase the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program to $300 million, and increase funding for the agriculture and nutrition programs authorized under section 103 of the Foreign Assistance Act to $750 million.
The alliance noted House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman's desire to update the Foreign Assistance Act. 'This provides an opportunity to establish food security as a theme of U.S. foreign aid, to expand nutrition and agricultural programs, and to focus more resources on improving the living conditions and livelihoods of small farmers and pastoralists in developing countries,' the alliance said.
In addition, the alliance said the Luger-Casey bill in the Senate addresses several key objectives, namely establishing a comprehensive food security policy through a White House coordinator, increasing agriculture and nutrition funding under the Foreign Assistance Act from $750 million in fiscal 2010 to $2.5 billion in fiscal 2014, and creating a food emergency fund to provide a wider range of tools for addressing food crises.
'To assure that these efforts reach and impact household and community-level needs in the most food insecure regions, it is critical to increase significantly the funding provided through private voluntary organizations and cooperatives that can organize, mobilize and work directly with poor communities,' Levinson said. 'Currently, little development assistance funding is available to these organizations for these purposes and without specific direction in legislation, minimal change or progress in this area is likely.' ' Chris Gillis