Perdue Breaks With Trump on International Food Aid Cuts

By Renee Hickman

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue appeared to break June 13 with White House budget recommendations to eliminate a major international food aid program.

President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget recommended ending the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program, which donates U.S. crops, as well as technical and financial assistance, to school meal and child nutrition programs in developing countries. The budget proposal says the program “lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented to reduce food insecurity.”

But Perdue testified at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that he supported the allocation of U.S. commodities through McGovern-Dole and Food for Peace, a USAID-run program that also provides food assistance to vulnerable populations overseas.

The proposed elimination of the $182 million Food for Education program was one of a number of areas in which Perdue said the Trump budget could be adjusted.

“I’ve admitted certainly on research and development, on rural development, on crop insurance and I think on this area, where I think the budget can benefit from some guidance,” Perdue said.

Committee member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) expressed his support for the program, co-founded by former Kansas senator Robert Dole, saying it was both “a moral opportunity to help feed the world” and advantageous to American producers.

Moran said that he wasn’t sure if there were any issues with the administration of McGovern-Dole, but if there were, it would be the USDA’s responsibility to address them. “That’s not a reason to eliminate the program,” he said.

Perdue said he was asking “probing questions” about the effectiveness of the program’s administration.

Perdue took charge at the Agriculture Department in April, a month after the preliminary Trump budget recommendations were released.

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