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CRS Renders a Split Decision on Food Aid Appropriations

May 3, 2012 by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Michael Hill
Catholic Relief Services
(410) 951-7110
michael.hill@crs.org

WASHINGTON, DC, May 3, 2012—Catholic Relief Services applauds the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for maintaining funding levels for two critical food aid programs—Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole Food for Education—but is concerned that one provision of the Fiscal Year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill could damage long-term programs that combat hunger worldwide.

“In an age of shrinking discretionary spending, it is wonderful news that the Committee recognized the good work made possible by these programs and chose to keep spending on them steady,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ Senior Vice President for Advocacy.

These programs go beyond feeding the hungry; they help poor farmers overseas feed themselves – through improved farm productivity, better sanitation conditions in rural villages, and higher levels of education as children attend schools that provide meals.

O’Keefe pointed out that while CRS supports the Senate’s overall funding levels for food aid, the agency is troubled by a provision in the bill that would allow the USAID Administrator to divert funding from long-term hunger programs to emergencies. This year, 27 percent of the Food for Peace budget was devoted to long-term hunger programs, while 73 percent was used for emergencies.  The provision added to the Senate Appropriations bill would allow the USAID Administrator to use all Food for Peace funds for emergencies.

“We know that people need to be fed in emergencies, but this should not be at the expense of programs meant to combat long-term hunger,” O’Keefe said. “That would not be a wise use of resources.”

He pointed out that these long-term hunger programs help to avoid emergencies in regions of the world that otherwise are often subject to cyclical climate-driven food shortages.

“If this funding is diverted to emergencies, it will damage programs that help these vulnerable communities build the capacity to withstand poor weather or harvests,” O’Keefe said. “It is a lot cheaper to build this capacity now instead of responding to emergencies in the future. It makes good fiscal sense to invest a little now in these communities in order to contain long-term costs of helping these people.”

Potential damage to long-term hunger programs is also a problem that could result from the Farm Bill reauthorization legislation that was passed recently out of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Minimum funding for long-term hunger programs was cut to $275 million a year—which could mean up to a 39 percent reduction over current spending.

Both the Senate FY2013 Agriculture Appropriations and the Senate Farm Bill still need to be voted on by the full Senate. The House has not yet introduced counterpart legislation to either bill.

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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in need in nearly 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality.  For more information, please visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org.

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