1.    House Appropriations Committee Approves Deep Cuts to International Food Aid

The House Appropriations Committee approved Tuesday the FY13 Agriculture Appropriations Bill (H.R. 5973), which includes deep cuts to international food assistance programs.  The bill provides $1.15 billion for P.L. 480 (also known as the Food for Peace program), which is a 22% cut from current (FY12) levels and from the FY13 amount approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.  If enacted, the House’s funding level would be the smallest P.L. 480 amount in a decade.

The bill also provides $180 million for the McGovern-Dole international school feeding program, which is 2% less than current spending.  Coupled with two other humanitarian relief accounts funded in the State-Foreign Operations spending bill – International Disaster Assistance and Migration and Refugee Assistance – the House Appropriations Committee’s recommendations for U.S. responses to global emergencies in FY13 would fall 13% below current levels.

During the House markup, the Committee rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that would have increased funding for Food for Peace by $260 million.  The amendment failed 20-26.  During debate on the amendment, Rep. DeLauro stated that the FY13 cuts would result in feeding 6.6 million fewer people worldwide.  The bill is expected to move to the House floor next week, where international food aid will likely be subject to further cutting amendments.

FY13 Agriculture Appropriations Snapshot for International Affairs Accounts
(As of 6/22/12)

 

FY12 Enacted 

FY13 Request 

FY13 Senate Appropriation 

FY13 House Appropriation 

P.L. 480

 

$1.466b

 

$1.4b

 

$1.466b

 

$1.15b

McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program

$180m

$184m

$184m

$180m


2.    Senate Passes Farm Bill; Includes International Food Aid Reforms

Yesterday the Senate passed the Farm Bill (S. 3240) after several days of debate, authorizing agriculture and food policy for the next five years.  Global development and humanitarian aid proponents were deeply disappointed with the outcome of the 2008 Farm Bill and have been working to include measures in this bill that make U.S. overseas food assistance more efficient, less costly, and more impactful.  The bill includes several international food aid reforms, including:

  • Allows annual procurement of $40 million for local and regionally produced commodities through FY17.  This significantly expands a 2008 Farm Bill four-year pilot program totaling $60 million aimed at delivering food less expensively and more quickly through purchases from farmers in the affected countries and regions;
  • Increases efficiency of food assistance by reducing the costs associated with monetization of food commodities.  Monetization is the practice of selling U.S. commodities in foreign markets and using the cash proceeds to implement non-emergency development programs;
  • Raises the level of cash resources within food aid programs, which will lower the dependency on monetizing commodities for non-emergency development projects;
  • Establishes the “Donald Payne Horn of Africa Food Resilience Program,” applying lessons learned from the 2011 famine in the Horn of Africa to institute programs that will help communities recover more quickly from food crises and mitigate the impact of future droughts and famines;
  • Potentially reduces the amount annually available for non-emergency development programs.  This provision, which attempts to balance needs for both emergency humanitarian and chronic hunger, sets a floor of 20% and a ceiling of 30% of annual appropriations for non-emergency development activities.  A number of organizations, concerned that the change would reduce the level of non-emergency resources, did not support the Committee-reported provision which set the minimum amount at 15%.  An amendment by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) increased the minimum threshold to 20%.

During the Senate’s debate, an amendment by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to prohibit food aid to North Korea, unless the President issues a national interest waiver, was adopted by a vote of 59-40.

3.  Update on FY13 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations

With only 33 days left in session before the House and Senate adjourn in early October and the new fiscal year begins, opportunities for floor action on the State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill are increasingly unlikely.  The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the bill on May 17th, followed by the Senate Appropriations Committee’s approval of its bill on May 24th.  While the House and Senate are expected to act on a couple more appropriations bills before the August recess, State-Foreign Operations is not expected to be considered, thereby avoiding a very challenging floor debate in which further cuts to these programs could be adopted.

So far, of the ten annual appropriations bills that have been passed by the House Appropriations Committee, only five of the measures (Commerce-Justice-Science, Energy-Water, Homeland Security, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs) have been passed by the House.  The Senate is moving at an even slower pace.  Of the five appropriations bills passed by the Appropriations Committee, none have been considered by the full Senate.