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CRS Asks Congress to Increase Funding for Food Aid Programs

April 9, 2014 by

Agency Says More Funding is Needed to Balance Overseas Shipping Costs

WASHINGTON, DC, April 9, 2014 — Catholic Relief Services is asking Congress to support feeding the world’s hungry by appropriating a minimum of $1.55 billion for Food for Peace, $200 million for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education, and $80 million for the Local and Regional Procurement program.

The request, which came in testimony submitted by CRS President Carolyn Y. Woo to House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees, calls for an increase over last year’s funding for the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole Food for Education programs.

“Approximately 842 million people worldwide face hunger on a daily basis,” Woo testified. “Often times it is the most vulnerable in a community who suffer the greatest from chronic hunger — women, smallholder farmers, the elderly and children …U.S. food aid programs, led by Food for Peace, help to address chronic hunger.”

Woo’s testimony noted CRS’ Food for Peace-supported development work helps farmers grow more food and earn enough money to feed their families. This type of assistance restores the dignity of people as it allows them to provide for themselves, improving their long-term food security in sustainable ways.

The testimony featured the CRS Food for Peace program in Madagascar — the Strengthening and Accessing Livelihood Opportunities for Household Impact (SALOHI) – which has improved rice yields for 58,000 farmers while also providing them business training and better linkages to markets for the sale of their crops.

Woo pointed out that appropriations for Food for Peace and other food aid programs need to rise over FY2014 appropriations because the 2013 budget deal eliminated longstanding funding used to offset the cost of transporting U.S. donated food overseas on cargo vessels. As a result, Woo stated “food aid programs will now shoulder the full cost of overseas transportation, which will ….ultimately decrease the number of people helped compared to present levels.”

CRS estimates that the Food for Peace program alone will spend $50-$70 million more per year on transportation, while other food aid programs like McGovern-Dole will probably see their transportation bills rise by $10-$15 million each year.

Woo noted in her testimony that another increase in food transportation costs may soon come from the 2014 Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act that Congress is presently considering. The bill mandates that U.S. flagged vessels carry a larger percentage of commodities used in food aid.

“The bill makes clear something we’ve known for a very long time – using U.S. carriers is more expensive than other commercial channels,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS Vice President for Advocacy. “Without offsets to defray this increase in transportation costs, appropriators will have to spend more on these programs. Otherwise substantially fewer people will be reached by food aid programs.”

Woo’s testimony also expresses support for key reform elements, like full funding of the permanent local and regional procurement program, which was authorized in the recently passed Farm Bill. “Using local food has great developmental benefits for the communities we work in” said O’Keefe. The testimony also expresses support for $35 million in additional cash resources for Food for Peace, which will help most programs avoid the need to sell food commodities as a means to raise funding to cover their expenses.

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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, visit www.crs.org or  www.crsespanol.org.

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