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Advocacy Helps Passage of Food Aid Amendment in House Spending Bill

Whipping the voteWhen 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)

 

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