As donors gather next week in Rome to pledge funds to the International Fund for Agriculture Development , they may be wondering where the United States is. Given the generally high marks this independent fund earns for development effectiveness, the uncertainty around a US pledge is troubling. In this “America First” moment, it’s worth asking when it comes to IFAD, what’s in it for the United States and what will be lost if the United States drops out?
CGD Policy Blogs
Earlier this month the US Treasury’s top international official announced at a congressional hearing that he would like to see the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) “wound down.” Scratching beneath GAFSP’s surface, there are good reasons to be concerned about the potential loss of this particular trust fund. And for those very reasons, it seems unlikely that the other GAFSP donors will be so quick to follow the US lead.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is celebrating one of its signature initiatives, Feed the Future (FTF), this week. Five years in, however, we still don’t know very much about how the program is working in the nineteen focus countries where it operates.
The clock is ticking on the 114th Congress, and as we inch closer to November 8, the odds of meaningful legislative action seem likely to dwindle further. It is heartening, then, that the House of Representatives joined the Senate last week and passed the Global Food Security Act. The legislation authorizes President Obama's Feed the Future initiative, which aims to increase incomes and improve nutrition among the rural poor in 19 focus countries.
Launched in response to the 2007-2008 global food price crisis, Feed the Future is the Administration’s flagship initiative for addressing global hunger, food security, and agricultural livelihoods. Along with Power Africa, the Initiative looks to be a key component of President Obama’s development legacy. This latest report provides a glimpse into what this $1 billion a year effort has achieved over the last five years. Even with this new report in hand, there are still more questions than answers.
Bravo to Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) for trying to free international food aid from the 1950s-era practices that cost lives and waste taxpayer dollars.
The Royce-Engel amendment to reform US food aid failed 203-220 in the House this week, as did the farm bill to which it was attached. The food aid amendment would have relaxed requirements that the United States buy American commodities and ship them on US ships. It's painful to see a smart foreign aid reform that would save lives and taxpayer money suffer a narrow defeat.
There are many, many problems with the House farm bill being debated this week but there are two amendments that would make significant improvements. The first (#55 in this list) is a version of the Royce-Bass Food Aid Reform Act that would provide authorization to untie up to 45 percent of the emergency food aid budget and allow the US Agency for International Development to provide assistance in whatever form—food purchased in the US or locally, vouchers, or cash transfers—would help the most people the quickest.
The Obama administration’s FY14 budget request included a food aid reform proposal that the administration estimated would allow US food aid to reach an addition 2-4 million people per year—for roughly what the United States spends now. My colleagues Kim Elliott and Will McKitterick have a new brief out that argues this is a conservative estimate. Their calculations suggest that the reforms would help at least 4 million more people, and maybe as many as 10 million for the same amount of money as under the current inefficient system.
Washington is abuzz with rumors that the White House budget will include a far-reaching reform of US food aid that moves away from in-kind food aid transported on American ships. Even though no details are available, the plan faces considerable resistance from agricultural and maritime interests that profit from the current system. But current practices are inefficient, costly, and slow and most development advocates support the administration’s desire to shake things up.