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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs came to town yesterday and hosted a valuable symposium on U.S. leadership in food security.  Chaired by Dan Glickman and Catherine Bertini, the Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative has contributed to understanding the value of food security as an engine of economic growth in developing countries.

Their 2009 report informed many of the components we see today in the Administration’s Feed the Future initiative. Yesterday’s symposium was an opportunity to assess progress and discuss future planning for U.S. leadership.  Participants benefitted from hearing directly from Bill Gates and government officials including Administrator Raj Shah, Secretary Tom Vilsack, Undersecretary Lael Brainard, and the Feed the Future coordinator for development, Julie Howard.

Part of the success of Feed the Future will depend on funding, although I mentioned in my remarks that non-aid approaches should be incorporated into the initiative.  In the current budget environment, robust funding for Feed the Future is not assured and should not be assumed.  The 2011 budget agreement made sizeable cuts to foreign assistance, but still provided room for adequate funding for food security programs.  At the symposium, Administrator Shah announced that the allocation would come to $1.15 billion. (Shah also announced new private sector partnerships, Title XII university partnerships, and more focus on research.)

Food Security: Request vs Appropriation

That amount – $1.15 billion – while much less than the request, is still respectable. Can we say the same for 2012?  Core international affairs spending will be under incredible pressure as the budget process unfolds this year.  The House budget resolution sets international affairs spending at roughly $30 billion, a reduction of 40% from the request, or 32% below the 2011 level.  The allocation being used by the Appropriations Committee is $39.6 billion and is a more meaningful number for what will likely happen.  This is 22% below the request and 11% below 2011.

Keep in mind that the foreign operations part of the bill generally bears the largest proportion of cuts to the international affairs budget.  That means that a cut between 11% and 22% will necessitate some real focus and prioritization to balance Feed the Future among a number of other valuable objectives.  All the more reason to thank the Chicago Council for its good work on keeping the issue of food security in the forefront and to USAID for its leadership.

Disclaimer

CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.