Budget would restructure a diminished commitment to international food aid

by Jay Sjerven
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International food aid
President Donald J. Trump’s budget proposal sharply reduces the U.S. commitment to international food assistance.
 

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump’s budget proposal sharply reduces the U.S. commitment to international food assistance. The United States provides most emergency and developmental food assistance under P.L. 480 Title II, also known as Food for Peace. This initiative was launched in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he signed into law what became known as the Food for Peace Act. The purpose was two-fold: to answer the urgent humanitarian call to feed the world’s hungry, which was deemed to be in accord with national security interests, while providing an outlet for the incredible bounty of U.S. agriculture.  

Congress appropriates funding each year to P.L. 480 Title II as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture budget. The program itself is administered by the Office of Food for Peace in the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

President Trump’s budget would eliminate all U.S.D.A. funding for P.L. 480 Title II. Instead, funding for fiscal year (F.Y.) 2018 emergency international food assistance, a proposed $1.1 billion, would be funneled through the International Disaster Account at USAID.  This compared with P.L. 480 Title II funding for F.Y. 2017 at an estimated $1,713 million and actual spending in F.Y. 2016 at $1,716 million. This would translate to a cut of more than $600 million in international food assistance from the estimate for the current year.

At the same time, the administration proposed to lower funding for the I.D.A. account itself in F.Y. 2018 by $900 million from F.Y. 2017, to $2.5 billion.

“The U.S. government will urge other donors, including non-traditional donors, to increase funding for humanitarian assistance and lessen the burden on the United States to respond,” the State Department’s budget request stated.

The president’s U.S.D.A. budget also would eliminate the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program, which received $201 million in funding for F.Y. 2017 and $202 million in F.Y. 2016. The program provides for the donation of U.S. agricultural commodities and associated financial and technical assistance to carry out preschool and school feeding programs in developing countries. It was authorized under the 2002 farm bill. The program’s namesakes, former Senators George McGovern and Robert Dole, were joint recipients of the World Food Prize in 2008 largely for their common commitment to international school feeding programs.

“The budget proposes to eliminate the program as part of the administration’s effort to reprioritize federal spending so it advances the safety and security of the American people,” the U.S.D.A. budget request stated in explanation.

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