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House Ag examines giving food aid to other countries

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers from 710th Brigade Support Battalion, Task Force Spartan, teamed up with Afghan National Police to distribute winter necessities in the village of Bidak in Logar province, Afghanistan, Oct 19.

In this “America First” era, congress is readdressing whether America should offer food aid to countries in need.  Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has donated more than $80 billion in food aid to hundreds of millions of starving people around the globe.

Also what form of aid direct shipments of American grain through the PL 480 program or cash payments to regional farmers in the impacted region.

House Agriculture Committee leaders are arguing against White House proposals to eliminate the two-key international food aid programs, Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education.

And, U.S. food aid programs the Trump Administration now wants to eliminate, are generating bipartisan support on the House Ag Committee.

“Eliminating such programs seems to be contrary to the role of any ‘America First’ policy,”  House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) said.    

The Obama Administration unsuccessfully proposed some cash-based food assistance. But Conaway argues, today’s budget constraints are “real” and program savings are needed, including by helping struggling nations to improve their own farming systems.

Top House Ag Democrat and chairman during the last farm bill, Collin Peterson, pointed to the link between food aid and trade.

“It is worth pointing out that 11 of our top 15 trading partners in 2017 were once recipients of U.S. assistance. Unfortunately, the budget put forward by the administration would completely eliminate 2 key U.S. assistance programs,” Ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN) said.

Witnesses from food aid and advocacy groups defended the life-saving successes of the programs and urged full or increased funding.

Ag lawmakers of both parties continue to oppose White House budget cuts to farm programs, including crop insurance, research and rural development…while there are more party differences over food stamp cuts.

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