LBJ professor testifies before House Foreign Affairs Committee | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, Erin Lentz, an assistant professor of public affairs at the LBJ School, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on modernizing food aid to improve effectiveness and save lives.

Of the hearing, Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) said, "In 2017, conflict and disaster overseas drove an unprecedented number of men, women and children from their homes and pushed more than 70 million people to the brink of starvation. Unfortunately, the situation in 2018 isn't getting better. Urgent reforms are needed to make U.S. international food aid programs more efficient and effective to save more lives."

During her testimony, Lentz proposed three changes to current Farm Bill legislation:

  • Expand flexibility of sourcing by relaxing or removing procurement requirements that compel 100 percent commodity purchase in the U.S.
  • Raise the share of resources that can be used as cash for non-commodity costs under Section 202.
  • Relax or eliminate cargo preference requirements on shipments of food aid commodities procured in the U.S.

"[These changes] would help reach more food insecure people and reach them faster, thereby maximizing every taxpayer dollar spent," Lentz said.

Lentz said the three proposed policy changes are budget neutral.

"These three policy reforms to U.S. food aid and food assistance matter for American taxpayers who deserve to not have their tax dollars squandered supporting special interests with outdated practices," Lentz said. "These reforms also mean U.S. food aid programs can more quickly reach more people in need, at no additional cost. Ending these restrictions would allow the U.S. to reach an estimated additional 5.8 to 11.8 million more people per year. We can—and ought—to do so."

Lentz has studied global food aid and food assistance policy for 14 years and has published 16 peer-reviewed articles and four book chapters on the topic.

Additional witnesses included Andrew Natsios, an executive professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and Dan Glickman, Distinguished Fellow of Global Food and Agriculture at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.