Greater Transparency, Clarity on Agency Roles would Improve Already Successful U.S. Investments in Global Food Security

September 16, 2015
As Congress considers legislation to codify long-term U.S. commitments to global food security, more detailed accounting of how food security funds are spent and assigning federal agencies clearer roles and responsibilities would help ensure that U.S. global food security programs are as effective as possible, says a new report from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Efforts such as Feed the Future have shown that U.S. investments in global food security successfully support development and simultaneously position American businesses to take advantage of growth markets. Yet the report identifies challenges that could hinder the government’s ability to strategically direct and coordinate future food security investments and find solutions for measuring and improving food security programs, including:
  • Inconsistent definitions of the investments and activities that support global food security;
  • Lack of clarity about how the “whole-of-government” approach to global food security is implemented and the role of each agency involved;
  • Lack of transparency in how some global food security funds are directed; and
  • Lack of details on funding for improving nutrition — an increasingly recognized aspect of global food security— making it difficult to craft effective, cross-sectoral interventions.
To address these challenges, the report recommends:
  • Consistently defining global food security as funds directed toward agricultural development, nutrition interventions, food aid and agriculture and food research;
  • Better federal government accounting on how Feed the Future monies are spent and comprehensively detailing nutrition funding;
  • Better leveraging the strengths of federal agencies and assigning clear agency roles and responsibilities – including potentially through legislation; and 
  • Exercising congressional leadership by authorizing a long-term commitment to global food security.
“With a burgeoning global population expected to surpass nine billion by 2050, ensuring that our global food system is abundant, reliable and nutritious has never been a more important task,” said Dan Glickman, former U.S. secretary of agriculture and co-chair of The Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative. “To that end, this report outlines crucial steps that the Administration and Congress could take that would solidify and maximize our already successful investments.”
“Results from Feed the Future so far have been impressive,” said Doug Bereuter, president emeritus of The Asia Foundation and co-chair of The Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative. “Yet it is challenging to evaluate how to scale up transformative efforts because of outdated definitions and opaque budgeting practices. Policymakers need better data in order to evaluate the effectiveness of investments and sustain them.”
The report was authored by Charles E. Hanrahan, a former Congressional Research Service analyst who spent 30 years tracking U.S. investments in agriculture and food. The report builds on the Council’s global agriculture and food work that has informed policies on nutrition, climate change, science and innovation, international development and non-communicable diseases.