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USAID releases Feed the Future progress report, scorecard

In a move that could have an influence on the debate over food aid in the farm bill, President Barack Obama announced today in Senegal the release of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s progress report and scorecard on Feed the Future, the administration’s signature agricultural development program.

Farm, humanitarian and maritime groups have spoken out against an Obama administration proposal to shift U.S. food aid from domestic commodity purchases that are shipped overseas to cash assistance that could be used to buy food nearer trouble spots. They have questioned whether a constituency for food aid and agricultural development can be maintained without the support of American groups that benefit from it.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee gave the proposal a favorable hearing, however, and the elements of the proposal are still subject to debate in the farm bill.

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah has said that he believes support will be maintained because Congress will be so impressed with the innovation and efficiency of the Feed the Future program that members will still support the program.

The report shows that the Obama administration has met most of its goals in Feed the Future and exceeded others, but not met all of them. The report also shows that, while the U.S. government pledged $3.85 billion to reduce world hunger and food insecurity, U.S. government agencies had disbursed only $1.37 billion by last December.

There have been questions within USAID, however, about whether Shah is right. One longtime USAID official told The Hagstrom Report, “There is no constituency for innovation and efficiency” on Capitol Hill compared with raw displays of political and economic power.