Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A USAID shipment arriving in Sudan. Photo: Ashraf Shazly / AFP via Getty Images

For more than 60 years, the U.S. has been the world’s foremost provider of food aid to victims of humanitarian disasters. But outdated restrictions have made American programs wasteful and inefficient, leaving them in critical need of reform.

Why it matters: This week, Congress begins considering the Food for Peace Modernization Act to address these issues without increasing spending. If adopted, the changes could save the lives of 40,000 children in food emergencies each year.

The background:

  • Food for Peace, the main U.S. food aid program, is reauthorized with the Farm Bill roughly every five years.
  • Under previous Farm Bills, only about 30 cents of every food aid dollar end up going toward food. That's because the program has for decades required that all food aid be purchased in the U.S. and half of it shipped overseas on U.S.–flagged vessels, even when not appropriate or economical. Food for Peace must also sell 15% of food shipments in developing countries, which routinely loses 25 to 45% of those taxpayer dollars.
  • As a result, while budgets have stayed fairly constant, the amount of food shipped has fallen roughly 60 percent in a generation, as more and more of the funds meant for humanitarian relief are spent on middlemen. All told, the policy wastes nearly $400 million every year.

What's next: As Congress prepares to mark up the next Farm Bill this spring, bipartisan leaders proposed reforms this week that would dramatically increase the proportion of funds spent on life-saving food — as opposed to transport, storage and administration — such as buying food locally or giving recipients biometrically verified vouchers if they live near well-functioning markets.

The bottom line: The farm lobby supports such reforms, as do all the major humanitarian relief organizations. Adopting them would save both money and lives.

Chris Barrett is Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Professor of Applied Economics and Management at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

Go deeper

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after sheltering with maskless colleagues during last week's deadly Capitol riot. But he did not specify whether his diagnosis was connected to the siege.

Far-right figure "Baked Alaska" arrested for involvement in Capitol siege

Photo: Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The FBI arrested far-right media figure Tim Gionet, known as "Baked Alaska," on Saturday for his involvement in last week's Capitol riot, according to a statement of facts filed in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

The state of play: Gionet was arrested in Houston on charges related to disorderly or disruptive conduct on the Capitol grounds or in any of the Capitol buildings with the intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of a session, per AP.