Two Steps Back on Food Aid Reform

In April the House of Representatives passed a Coast Guard spending bill. The bill included an obscure provision that, if enacted by the Senate, would decrease the amount of U.S. food aid available to countries in need of food assistance.

The little-noticed provision directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to increase the proportion of food commodities purchased in the U.S. and transported on U.S.-flagged commercial ships from 50 to 75 percent. This means that the agencies will have to pay more for shipping costs and have fewer selections from which to choose. The Senate is now considering the bill.

Jesus’ teachings about helping those in need are constant throughout Scripture.

Unfortunately, this provision runs counter to the progress that Congress made earlier this year when it passed the farm bill. As outlined in my previous article, the 2014 farm bill included major policy changes that would make U.S. food aid more efficient. The House’s Coast Guard spending bill would undermine this progress if it passes the Senate in its current form.

The Obama administration has warned that this change would raise shipping costs by approximately $75 million per year, draining funds that could be used to purchase more food, potentially preventing millions of people from receiving food assistance they need.

Jesus’ teachings about helping those in need are constant throughout Scripture. He continuously reminds those who are wealthy to share with those who are not. His words echo the instruction in Leviticus 19 to leave some of the harvest on the field for the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10).

The shipping industry has strenuously opposed food aid reforms and were able to use their power and influence to sway members of the House to vote in their favor. As humanitarian needs are increasing around the world, we must heed Jesus’ call to share our food with those most in need and not those who seek more profit.

Posted: 5/16/2014 7:00:00 AM

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