Earlier this week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released a report on the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) implementation and oversight of additional food aid flexibility authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Under the 2014 Farm Bill, USAID is authorized to use up to 20 percent of Food for Peace (Title II) funds for administrative purposes, now interpreted by USAID to include the delivery of cash-based food aid. The report offers the first comprehensive look into the extent USAID is using the new authority to provide cash transfers, food vouchers, and locally or regionally procured (LRP) food—rather than U.S.-grown commodities—to those in need across the globe. House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway released the following statement in response:
“Not surprisingly, USAID has used the vast majority of its new authority on cash, vouchers, and LRP—modalities not previously authorized under Title II. While this has already allowed USAID to avoid monetization of U.S. commodities to the greatest extent possible, the report suggests that USAID has yet to reach the limits it is allowed to spend on these activities.
“I was surprised last Congress when some called for additional Title II flexibility as part of our hearing series on international food aid, even though there had been no substantive review of the flexibility already in place. Not only does this report solidify my concerns about USAID’s ability to monitor the use of cash and vouchers overseas, but also that demands for even more flexibility are premature.
“In the face of potential budget cuts and efforts to enhance programmatic integrity, it is important that decision makers keep in mind the flexibilities already available, not only through Title II, but also through other international, cash-based food assistance programs like the Emergency Food Security Program. Most importantly, I hope we never lose sight of the critical role American farmers and U.S.-grown commodities have played in feeding the world over the past 60 years.”