58 posts categorized "2014 Offering of Letters"
Bread for the World has worked for many years to call for better ways to get life-saving food to hungry people around the globe through U.S. food aid. Now major media outlets are catching on to the problem as well.
A recent report on CNN highlights the inefficiencies of the current system and the costs—both in financial terms and in lives put at risk by the inflexibility. As part of a series “Why Won’t Washington Work,” CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper spent time with Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) discussing food aid. Current requirements that food largely has to be purchased in the United States and then shipped on U.S. cargo carriers means that 65 percent of the money for the aid program is spent on shipping and business costs, rather than food.
This requirement also delays food delivery by months - and at critical times. “It actually takes us about three months to buy food here, and ship it, and get it to, say, the Philippines after a disaster,” Shah told CNN. “It takes two to three months to get that done.”
Shah estimates that if there were flexibility with the program and food could be purchased locally, closer to where the need is—as Bread’s Offering of Letters calls for this year—the program could feed 8 million to 10 million more people, and within days, versus months.
But political connections, rather than humanitarian concerns, are one of the things obstructing these changes to the program in Congress. Shipping companies and unions, who benefit financially from the program as it is, are opposed to any change in the current system. And they wield clout in Congress in a way that hungry people do not: According to the Center for Public Integrity, the two leading maritime unions gave more than three quarters of a million dollars to House members in the 2012 election cycle. As CNN noted, members of Congress receiving that money, Republicans and Democrats both, voted against Shah's efforts to reform the program, 83 to 29.
As CNN’s report notes, U.S. jobs and companies are important priorities. But that’s not what this money for life-saving food aid is meant for, not where it should be directed.
Even “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” knows that the shipping companies are not really the most vulnerable among us.
Photo: Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. Many distributions of U.S.food-aid items are carried out by private relief and development organizations, many of them supported by U.S. churches. (Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World)
Catarina Pascual Jiménez poses with her twins in Guatemala. Read about how a U.S.-funded nutrition program has helped her family on the 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid site. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
By Robin Stephenson
On this day, 60 years ago, Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 480 and created the Food for Peace program – the first permanent program in the United States to respond to global hunger. For six decades, the program has helped approximately 3 billion people in 150 countries.
Ganet Gelgehu is one of those people. A Food for Peace program administered by Catholic Relief Services in Gelgehu’s village of Gubeta Arjo in Ethiopia has helped turn her listless and malnourished twin sons Joseph and Isaac into the active two-year olds they should be. Drought has led to chronic food insecurity in the region. The program provides Galgehu and more than 300 mothers like her whose children are malnourished with a porridge that is easy to prepare and provides the nutrients necessary for healthy development. "When I compare my older children at this age with the twins, I see a difference," Gelgehu tells CRS’s regional information officer Sara A. Fajardo. "They were not this strong. They were not this healthy."
Gelegehu’s story also highlights how the Food for Peace program has transformed over the past 60 years. Targeting mothers and children with programs that focus on nutrition is a recent development – and one that can build long-term resilience against food insecurity. Research shows that every dollar invested in nutrition generates as much as $48 in better health and increased productivity.
Bread for the World celebrates our own milestone this year, marking 40 years of advocacy to end hunger. During that time we have advocated for the Food for Peace program and its transformation as we learn better and new ways to fight global food insecurity.
The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) recently introduced in the Senate could provide needed flexibility to deliver food aid, making the program more efficient. We are urging Bread for the World members to encourage their senators to become cosponsors of S. 2421. Today, Food for Peace faces funding challenges as Congress works on the 2015 budget. We must continue to urge appropriators to adequately fund some of the reforms we won in the farm bill. We also must guard against provisions that would decrease food aid by increasing transportation costs by shipping more food from the United States.
So today we give thanks for the Food for Peace program on its 60th birthday—and for all the birthdays it has enabled children around the world to celebrate, like Joseph and Isaac.
During Bread for the World's 2014 Lobby Day, participant Pamm McGill of Las Vegas, Nev. and Bread for the World staffer Matt Newell-Ching meet with an aide for Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) about the importance of U.S. food aid. Washington, D.C., Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (Jim Stipe).
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)
Faith has the power to move mountains – or topple giants, as the case may be. Faithful advocates have not let special interests nor politics deter them from pushing for reforms to U.S. food aid that can help feed millions more. Today, we can celebrate yet one more victory in the exodus to end hunger: Legislation that would increase transportation costs at the expense of food aid is currently absent in the Senate’s Coast Guard bill.
The Senate recently introduced its version of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act (S. 2444). Thanks to your efforts, it does not take critical food-aid dollars away from hungry people to subsidize the world’s largest shipping companies. The bill now faces a vote by the Senate Commerce Committee. If it passes, it will still need to pass the full Senate and eventually be reconciled with the House version of the bill, which provides for increased subsidies to shipping companies using food-aid funds.
The House version (H.R. 4005), which passed by a voice vote, included legislation that would increase, from 50 to 75 percent, the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. As a result, the cost of shipping food aid would increase by at least $75 million, and 2 million fewer hungry people would be reached.
The work Bread for the World members have put into shining a light on the harmful provision quietly tucked into the House bill is a testament to the power of speaking with a unified moral voice. You called, emailed, and petitioned senators who were considering the harmful legislation, making it clear that they were choosing to increase hunger or profit. You wrote letters to the editor in your local papers. You went to Washington, D.C., and met with your members of Congress. And when we called on faith leaders to sign on to letters, you responded by the hundreds.
When we live out our faith and answer the call to end hunger together, everything is possible. Yes, it’s possible for just one person to slay the giant with just the right hit, but it’s easier for many of us to topple the giant together.
But the fight is far from over. Amendments to increase transportation costs could still be introduced when the full Senate deliberates on the Coast Guard bill. Continue to tell your senators not to use food aid to increase subsidies to the world’s largest shipping companies, leaving 2 million more people hungry every year.
If you haven’t done so, please add your name to our petition and let Congress know you care about your hungry neighbor – whether they live next door or on the next continent.
“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Matthew 14:20)
Jesus fed more than 5,000 people with a miracle by multiplying loaves and fishes. We don’t need a miracle to feed millions more who suffer from hunger. We only need to multiply our efficiency by passing the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421).
Increasing efficiency means U.S. food aid can reach up to 9 million more hungry people around the world. Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) recently introduced a bill that provides needed flexibility to deliver food aid, making the program more efficient. Urge your senator to co-sponsor S. 2421 and help build momentum to pass the bill.
Senate Bill 2421 would modernize U.S. food aid by:
- Increasing flexibility to deliver food aid in the best way possible. In many cases, that means delivering food purchased in the United States, while in other cases buying food locally would be more effective and timely. In still others, the best way to meet the nutritional needs of hungry people would be through the provision of cash transfers or food vouchers.
- Increasing long-term resilience by ending monetization– the practice of selling food to support development programs, which is incredibly inefficient, often distorts local markets, and can undermine longer-term food-security objectives.
- Increasing efficiency by removing cargo-preference requirements on food aid. Food aid shipped under cargo preference costs taxpayers 46 percent more, on average, than competitively awarded ocean freight shipments. This legislation will save money and provide the flexibility to ship food without anti-competitive restrictions.
Reforming U.S. food-aid policy has been a cornerstone of Bread for the World’s efforts to end global hunger as far back as 1981 and is the focus of the 2014 Offering of Letters. Food aid not only responds to natural or man-made disasters around the world, but as we learn better ways to respond to hunger, food aid becomes an important tool in building long-term food security that can end global hunger.
Recently, Bread members helped pass reforms in the 2014 farm bill that will have a huge impact in the near future if Congress funds the programs. As the House and Senate work on their 2015 agricultural appropriations bills, Bread members will need to continue urging adequate funding to shore up the reforms already passed.
The danger of slipping backwards also lurks at every corner. Special-interest lobbies are working hard to increase cargo-preference provisions, denying food aid to millions. Faithful advocates must continue to be an obstacle.
Christians know we can live in a world without hunger. The Corker-Coons legislation is part of the exodus from hunger. When a senator adds his/her name to the bill as a cosponsor, he/she indicates support for the legislation. This helps build the momentum to pass the bill in the future, and signals strong support for food aid reforms now.
In Matthew, faced with a hungry crowd, Jesus performs a miracle and creates abundance out of scarcity. This illustrates that God wants the faithful to make the best use of our bounty and gifts when confronting hunger. We don’t need a miracle to face a hungry world – we need political will and common sense policy changes.
To find out more about how U.S. food-aid reform is moving in Congress and what you can do, join us for today’s conference call and webinar at 4 p.m. ET. Register here.
When it comes to saving lives, faithful advocates and Bread for the World staff spare no energy. Faithful advocacy continues to build the momentum to reform our government’s food-aid programs and bring hope and help to millions of people in need. This week’s large-scale advocacy has resulted in a victory that is worth celebrating.
Late yesterday, the House of Representatives began debate on its version of the fiscal year 2015 agricultural appropriations bill. Included in the bill was a vital amendment to provide funding for the USDA Local and Regional Purchase (LRP) program. This would help more people receive U.S. food aid at no additional cost. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39), who has been a champion in the House for food-aid reform, led the bipartisan amendment.
The LRP program was reauthorized at $80 million in the in the 2014 farm bill. Bread for the World members advocated for the LRP program, which would allow USDA the option to buy food close to the source of need rather than shipping lifesaving resources from overseas, which can take up to 14 weeks.
Bread learned about the LRP amendment during our annual Lobby Day on Tuesday when Royce spoke to Bread for the World members thanking them for their work to reform food aid and to receive an award from Bread for his work to reform food-aid programs during the farm bill debate last year. Yesterday, we emailed an action alert to our members, and calls began flowing into congressional offices urging House members to support Royce’s amendment that would provide minimal funding for LRP at $10 million.
It appeared the amendment passed by a voice vote when offered by Royce, but a hold was called, which meant a recorded vote would be required. The groundwork had been laid the previous day when Bread members visited the offices of hundreds of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to advocate about the importance of U.S. food aid and many more across the country called in to lawmakers’ Washington offices as part of a virtual Lobby Day. Just before the recorded vote, Bread staff followed up with urgent phone calls and emails to House offices urging them to support the Royce amendment.
Cheers erupted in the Bread offices when the vote count of 223 to 198 was announced. This vote is the latest in a series showing bipartisan support for food-aid reforms. Late last month, Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), offered an amendment to the Senate version of agricultural appropriations that passed out of committee with an additional $35 million for food-aid reform efforts.
If the final bill passes later this week, and the Senate version moves through its process, these bills will be conferenced (reconciled between the two chambers). However, the spending bill still has a long way to go before Oct. 1, which is the start of the fiscal year. The House will continue to debate, with a final vote expected at a later time.
We are grateful for the advocacy Bread for the World members continue to provide in support of reforms and adequate funding that can help save millions more lives. We encourage you to call your representative and thank him/her if he/she voted for the Royce amendmen,t or express your disappointment. You can see how they voted here.
Photo: Bread for the World staff make phone calls and send emails to congressional offices in support of an amendment that would fund local and regional purchase. Washington, D.C. (Eric Mitchell)
Update: The Royce amendment to fund passed by a vote of 223 Yeas to 198 Nays. Thank you for your advocacy.
Bread for the World and several of its partner organizations sent a letter to House members today, urging them to include the Royce amendment in the 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill (H.R. 4800).
Today, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39) is introducing an amendment to the bill to ensure there is money for more efficient food-aid programs that can reach more people, in a more timely manner— including funding for local and regional purchase programs.
The full text of the letter is below.
The below organizations write in support of Congressman Ed Royce’s amendment to provide $10 million for the USDA Local and Regional Procurement Program. This program was permanently authorized in the recently passed 2014 farm bill, and would provide more flexible programming to compliment existing food aid programs, especially the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.
USDA analysis of the Local and Regional Procurement (LRP) Pilot Project created in the 2008 farm bill has shown that LRP practices typically enable food assistance to be delivered more quickly, at considerable savings, with the ultimate benefit of reaching larger numbers of vulnerable people. LRP also generates important developmental impacts by spurring local economic activity and helping form and strengthen local markets.
Funding local and regional procurement improves the long-term sustainability of school-feeding programs supported by McGovern-Dole. U.S. support for LRP can help countries make a transition to national ownership by reducing reliance on U.S.-donated commodities and operating their programs using their own local resources.
With limited resources available, this amendment ensures that our food aid dollars reach a greater number of people while using tax payer dollars efficiently. LRP enjoys broad bipartisan support and is considered important to the broader food aid reform effort. Failing to fund the LRP program would be a major setback to the food aid reform effort. We urge you to vote in favor of the Royce Amendment.
World Food Program USA
American Jewish World Service
Bread for the World
Church World Service
The Borgen Project
Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network
Save the Children
The vote is expected later this evening, and we need faithful advocates to act! Call your representative at 800-826-3688 and urge him or her to support the Royce amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill (H.R. 4800). If you are on Twitter, please send the same message and tag your member in a tweet.
It seems like it should be an easy decision, but Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), is undecided on whether to increase cargo preference under a provision, tucked into a Coast Guard bill, that would increase profits to foreign-owned shipping companies, or ensure 2 million hungry people receive food they need to survive.
Faithful advocates across the country need to speak up now.
Rockefeller is the chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which is writing its version of the Coast Guard Reauthorization bill. The House has already passed its version of the legislation, but it included a harmful provision that would increase, from 50 to 75 percent, the amount of food aid shipped from the United States on U.S.-flagged ships. As a result, the cost of shipping food aid would increase by at least $75 million, and, as a result, 2 million fewer hungry people would be reached.
In an interview published in Politico today, Sen. Rockefeller said, “I’m just flat-out undecided.” His concerns, Politico reported, center on issues of military readiness and claims that the shipping industry needs the business. Experts in the field of agricultural cargo preference and food security have publically stated that there is no evidence to back up claims from the shipping industry that jobs or military readiness would be affected.
What evidence does show is that increasing cargo preference would limit already-scarce resources used to combat global food insecurity, especially during periods of crises. Harming a program that spreads American goodwill globally and saves millions of lives just to line the pockets of a few largely foreign-owned shipping companies makes no sense. Ryan Quinn, Bread for the World’s senior policy analyst, has said it is a boondoggle - that it is not only a waste of time and money, but goes against our nation's values.
“We have fought so hard for reforms that will bring lifesaving aid to millions, all the while saving taxpayer dollars,” Quinn said today. “Why should those dollars instead go to subsidize shipping companies? It makes no sense to me. And the argument that increasing cargo-preference restrictions would support ‘military readiness’ is not supported by the facts.”
In a letter to Congress last year, the U.S. Department of Defense asserted that the subsidized vessels in question are not useful to the military. In fact, many of these ships are old, inefficient, and ill-suited to carry thousands of tons of food aid thousands of miles around the world.
Quinn said that he was pleased with the bipartisan support he has seen around food aid. Just this week, Sens. Corker and Coons introduced the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421), which would provide up to 9 million more people with lifesaving aid at no additional cost by using taxpayer dollars more efficiently. The legislation would accomplish many of the requests included in the Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, Reforming U.S. Food Aid. Bread members visiting Washington, D.C., next week will be asking their senators to co-sponsor the bill as part of our annual Lobby Day.
“Increasing cargo preference could undo all that we have gained, and we must hold our leaders accountable,” said Quinn.
Call your senator today at 800-826-3688 and tell him or her to oppose any increase in transportation costs for food aid. Share the picture above on your Twitter or Facebook page, and visit bread.org/foodaid to sign our petition. Millions of lives should not be sacrificed to subsidize shipping companies!
Read more about S. 2421, the authorization bill to reform U.S. food aid released this week.
Rev. Dave Buerstetta blesses an offering of letters at the Woodridge United Methodist church outside of Chicago, Ill. Assisting him are Jason Shubert (l) and Tim Waynick. (Patti Cash)
Rev. Dave Buerstetta of Woodridge United Methodist Church in Chicago, Ill., recently added his name to a letter asking his senator to protect food aid. We asked him why he thought it was important for the faith community to be part of the conversation on food aid with Congress. Here is what he said:
Loving God with our whole selves and loving our neighbors as ourselves requires seeking justice. Seeking justice requires trying to change the cultural systems that make, and keep, people poor or hungry or oppressed. So seeking justice – transforming systems to better emulate the Reign of God on earth, for which we pray every single week – requires advocacy.
We have some neighbors who are hungry. We have other neighbors who are members of Congress with the power to keep 2 million more neighbors from becoming hungry. Of course we should talk with members of Congress about this! We cannot let ourselves be scared off from the vital work of justice advocacy simply because doing so means engaging in the political process. That's how systems are changed.
In other words, in addition to being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, we must also seek to be the voice of Jesus in the world, speaking with and for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed. That is why I added my name to the letter; that is why I hope you will too.
Buerstetta practices what he preaches. The letter to his Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), asking him to protect food aid for 2 million people is an example of seeking justice and loving our neighbor. As a leader in Congress, Sen. Durbin can influence policy that affects how much food the United States can deliver to people in need overseas — and as a constituent, Buerstetta can influence Sen.Durbin.
Legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives would decrease the amount of assistance the U.S. can give while increasing profits for shipping companies. The Senate is now writing its version of the bill, and we are asking senators that any legislation to increase transportation costs for shipping food aid be stripped from the bill. Several senators have been targeted as having particular influence at this time. We are asking faith leaders from Alaska, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia to urge their senators to protect U.S. food aid. The letters will be delivered in person on Tuesday, June 10.
You can read more about Rev. Buerstetta’s work in the Nov. 2012 edition of Bread for the World’s newsletter.
Rick Steves, television and radio personality, travel expert, and longtime Bread for the World member, wrote an opinion piece on U.S. food aid that was published in The Seattle Times yesterday. In his guest contribution, titled "Protect U.S. food aid from the shipping industry," Steves, a resident of Washington state, asks Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to protect food aid. He also calls on Washington voters to support her efforts to do so.
Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that included a provision that would increase the cost of shipping food aid by at least $75 million. This increase would mean 2 million fewer hungry people would benefit from lifesaving food-aid programs. The bill is now being considered by the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Cantwell is a member. Bread for the World is asking the committee members to strip any provisions that would increase transportation costs for food aid.
A frequent traveler, Steves has a perspective on global hunger that motivates him to advocate that U.S. food aid be made more efficient. In his guest post, he writes:
I care about this issue in part because of my work as a travel writer. Having spent a third of my adult life overseas, it’s clear to me: While we are a compassionate society, we can be oblivious to the consequences that some of our choices have on struggling people. Sure, we have our economic challenges. But 90 percent of humanity would love to have our crisis. Half of humanity is struggling to survive on $2 a day. When you travel, you understand that’s a real crisis.
I believe that, even if motivated only by greed and national security interests, if U.S. citizens know what’s good for ourselves and our country, we don’t want to be extremely wealthy in a world with lots of hunger. U.S. food aid, which saves millions of lives each year, is vital in combating this challenge. And making every food-aid dollar count is a responsible use of taxpayer money, a moral imperative and in America’s interest.
Read the piece in its entirety on The Seattle Times website.
Bread for the World is asking Washington state faith leaders to sign a letter to Sen. Cantwell asking her to protect U.S. food aid. The letter, addressed to Cantwell and other members of the Senate Commerce Committee, will be delivered June 10 during Bread for the World's Lobby Day.
Learn more about Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid on the Offering of Letters website.
Wealthy shipping companies, mostly foreign-owned, have lobbied for more profit for themselves at the expense of 2 million hungry people, and the House of Representatives has sanctioned it. It’s a boondoggle — it's not only a waste of time and money, it goes against our nation's values.
This subsidy to the world’s largest shipping conglomerates was quietly included as a provision in the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill for fiscal year 2015, which passed by voice vote in the House. The legislation would increase, from 50 to 75 percent, the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. As a result, the cost of shipping food aid would increase by at least $75 million, and 2 million fewer hungry people would be reached.
This provision has nothing to do with the U.S. Coast Guard and is a blatant attempt by special interests to line their own pockets while more people overseas go hungry.
Cornell University’s Christopher Barrett and Bucknell University’s Erin Lentz expose the level of depravity the shipping lobby has reached in “Highway robbery on the high seas," a recent article in The Hill. In addition to limiting food aid, they state that the legislation would also limit competition and restrict public comment. “These anti-competitive restrictions, which enable much more expensive shipping rates than competitor vessels would charge, generate windfall profits to a few, mainly foreign companies who operate U.S.-flagged vessels through domestic subsidiaries,” they write.
I have been meeting with members of the Senate Commerce Committee, who are writing their version of the bill. Our goal is to strip the provision from the Senate bill in committee. A common argument for increasing cargo preference relies on the idea that not doing so will result in U.S. job losses. Barrett and Lentz point out that earlier reforms, which reduced cargo preference, did not result in any lost jobs. In addition, they write, “this type of indirect subsidy is so inefficient that any job created comes at a taxpayer cost of about $100,000.”
In 2010, Barrett and Lentz were part of a research team that conducted a rigorous peer-reviewed analysis on agricultural cargo preference policy (ACP). Their conclusion was that ACP is not cost effective or efficient, does not increase military readiness, and does not substantially affect the labor market. ACP does, however, squander scare food-aid resources intended to help alleviate hunger.
Opposition to the ACP provision is clearly bipartisan. Organizations as diverse as The Heritage Foundation and The Center for American Progress agree that that increasing cargo preference is a step backward.
I am asking you to sign a petition, which I intend to deliver to Capitol Hill next week. Regional organizers are asking for faith leaders to add their names to sign-on letters targeting some key members on the committee, which they will deliver in person on June 10.
Lives are at stake. We have seen the difference flexibility made after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines and U.S. food aid helped save lives. An estimated 5 million people in South Sudan need humanitarian assistance urgently — after fleeing violence, mothers now fear famine will claim their children. Right now we must not undo the progress made on food-aid reform, nor turn our backs to those in need when we have the means to help.
Ryan Quinn is a senior policy analyst in the government relations department at Bread for the World.
Photo: Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. (Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World)
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