Legislative Activity

International Food Assistance Programs in the Farm Bill

On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold a full committee hearing focused on international food assistance programs under the committee’s jurisdiction. Three major food aid programs authorized under past farm bills are the Food for Peace Act, which is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); the Food for Progress Program, which is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS); and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which is also administered by USDA’s FAS. Additionally, farm bill legislation has historically authorized programs that seek to promote U.S. agricultural products on global markets.

The House and Senate Agriculture Committees, which are charged with reauthorizing farm bill programs before the current farm bill’s expiration date of September 30, 2018, will undoubtedly face policy battles over the fate of certain international food aid programs, as they did during the two-and-a-half years leading up to the enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill.

For example, there were several internal arguments over the jurisdiction of specific international food aid programs. House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership made clear its argument that the Food for Peace Act and other export promotion measures included in Title III of the farm bill fell within its legislative jurisdiction. On June 19, 2013, during the House floor debate of the farm bill (H.R. 1947), an amendment was offered by Reps. Edward Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that would have modified the Food for Peace Program to allow up to 45 percent of program funding to be sent overseas to be used as part of the local and regional purchase program, cash transfers, or vouchers in lieu of providing U.S. commodities. Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel, along with other proponents of the amendment, argued that modifications to the program were needed to reach more people in need, in a more efficient manner. Opponents of the amendment, such as House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leadership and several major farm organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, and the National Corn Growers Association, argued that there would be no accountability, transparency, or requirement that the money was actually being spent on food. Additionally, opponents alleged the amendment would reduce U.S. agricultural exports, as well as the number of U.S. flagged vessels involved in international trade. Ultimately, the Royce/Engel amendment to modify the Food for Peace Program was narrowly defeated by a margin of 203-220.

Differences in opinions between certain legislators and the administration surrounding the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program may also to emerge, as President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request, released on May 23, 2017, proposed to eliminate the program. Specifically, the Budget Request explained that the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program “is duplicative of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs, lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented, and has unaddressed oversight and performance monitoring challenges.”

This week’s hearing will allow the committee to debate the future of existing programs and recommend ways to maintain the United States’ leadership role in addressing hunger, enhancing global food security, and promoting U.S. agricultural commodities.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Wednesday, June 7, the House Agriculture Committee has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: The Future of International Food Aid and Agricultural Development.”
  • On Thursday, June 8, the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition has scheduled a hearing titled “The Next Farm Bill: SNAP Technology and Modernization.”