Thursday, January 17, 2013

The loss of LRP...

You’ve heard us talk about it before: LRP. It’s short for the USDA Local and Regional Procurement Project. LRP started as a pilot program in the 2008 Farm Bill and was based on the proven findings that providing cash grants to purchase food in surplus-producing areas of the region where it will be distributed saves time and money.

Over the course of the 4-year project, nearly 2 million people received food rations through vouchers, Food for Work activities and school feeding programs. That amounted to nearly 55,000 metric tons of food! You might be thinking to yourself, “How is this any different from what food aid already does?”. Well, most food aid provided by the U.S. has to be grown in the United States, transported to the shores, shipped overseas on U.S. shipping vessels, arrive in the crisis region, transported to the specific area being affected, and then distributed. This whole process sometimes takes 3-6 months and well, time is money and more importantly, lives! That’s where LRP comes in. If you can replace the first three steps with: acquire food in-region, then you’ve saved a huge amount of time (months saved = lives saved) and reduced the cost because you no longer have to ship the food such long distances.
But…this program was allowed to expire during recent “fiscal cliff” negotiations. Earlier in 2012, the Senate Ag Committee had put forth an effort to make it a permanent program with a $40 million appropriation due to its success. Nope – didn’t make it through. Although 'inconvenient' seems like a heartless word choice, this really isn’t a time to mess around with life-saving foreign assistance. Issues such as climate change continue to threaten the already food insecure, leaving hundreds of millions to ponder their very survival. How do we tell them that a program that we know is successful and saves lives was allowed to expire?

And when disaster strikes, how long must millions now wait for emergency food aid to arrive? 3 to 6 months? We can do better than that…WE know we can. 

Tell Congress you oppose cuts to effective, poverty-reducing foreign aid!  Together, we’re a powerful voice for change. Let’s be a voice for those who too often go unheard.

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