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- Highlighted Legislation: H.R.2642 Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013
Featured Policy News
GlobalWA Signs On to Stop Foreign Assistance Cuts
By Mark Olmstead
InterAction has written a letter asking the new congressional “Super Committee” to stop cutting foreign assistance. GlobalWA has signed on and asks members to do the same. The goal is to protect lifesaving humanitarian assistance and poverty-focused development programs during upcoming negotiations.
With our government now up and running, a deal was cut between the House of Representatives and the Senate to create a FY2014 budget. Heading the committee is House Budget chair and former Vice-Presidential nominee Representative Paul Ryan and Washington’s own Senator Patty Murray.
The Super Committee will discuss possible spending cuts and tax revenue increases. The past Super Committee, formed to address these same issues back in 2011, failed to come to an agreement which resulted in sequestration cuts to defense and social service programs. Sequestration is still in effect and will continue until a new deal is reached. Sequestration has harmed both sides of the aisle and the US economy, as well. Economic growth cannot be sustained when government spending cuts are not in line with consumption and US exports.
InterAction has circulated their letter throughout the global development community, asking organizations to sign on asking Congress to stop cutting foreign assistance. The letter states, “Discretionary spending, and the International Affairs Budget in particular, has already received drastic cuts in recent years. Congress must not further reduce funding for programs that demonstrate our nation’s commitment to alleviate extreme poverty and ensure our economic growth and our national security.” These programs are essential for humanitarian needs and poverty-focused development, and further cuts could be detrimental to people around the world. GlobalWA has proudly signed this letter. The sequestration has been painful for global development organizations within the United States, and additional cuts would only add to that damage. We ask that our members sign the InterAction letter to send a message to Congress that foreign assistance is essential in continuing the fight against global poverty.
How do Washington Bilingual Standards Measure Up to the World?
By Sandy Lam
We are a world of interconnected countries. Learning to communicate cross-culturally has become extremely important when it comes to building relationships at any level. While the United States has been known as a melting pot of cultures, we have remained far behind in building a future of bilingual and dual education.
While 90% of European students learn a second language at some point during primary or secondary school, most students in the United States are not introduced to a foreign language as a dedicated subject until secondary education. Thirteen of the European countries make English a mandatory first foreign language, and they now encourage students to study at least two foreign languages.
“If the U.S., in the modern world, is going to maintain its position as a global leader it’s going to have to become more conversant,” said Ken Gude, a former Center for National Security Studies policy analyst.
According to the 1990 United States Census Bureau, 91% of Washington residents five years and older spoke English. By 2009, the percentage dropped to 83%. The clear decline of English as the majority language shows that our state is becoming more diverse, and the need for dual language classes remains crucial if the United States wants to keep up with global education around the world.
Most schools in the United States, particularly in Washington, offer limited options for foreign language education. This stems from the lack of value placed on teaching students to become bilingual. Most Washington State colleges prefer to see foreign languages on admission transcripts; however, foreign language study is not a high school requirement. Clearing up this disconnect could help bridge the gap and set our future graduates on an advantageous path.
As a state, we’ve taken steps in the right direction, but there is plenty of more work to be done to bring our education up to world standards. The Washington State Coalition for International Education was formed in the spring of 2003, as an affiliation of individuals and organizations committed to preparing all students for today’s interconnected world. By 2005, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction adopted a task force, partnering with the Washington Association for Language Teaching (WAFLT), the Washington State Coalition for International Education, University of Washington, and Pacific Lutheran University. This task force has made adopting world language standards into standard curriculum a top priority.
Nonprofit organizations such as Foreign Language for Youth (F.L.Y) strive to teach elementary and middle school students Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Arabic. Throughout the Puget Sound, this organization works with over 800 students teaching them a foreign language. This is not just an option for wealthy schools and families. F.L.Y. offers scholarships to schools and low-income students who want to set up a program. In 1995, Konni Barich, founder of F.L.Y., identified the need for students to begin foreign language early in life. “There was a huge need for this,” said Barich. “There is such a void in our schools these days.”
F.L.Y. sets a positive example of how to prepare our students to become linguistically competent in a global world. What can your organization do to help make Washington the most globally competent state in America?
By Mark Olmstead
The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, commonly known as the US Farm Bill, has left conference between the House and Senate and is looked to be voted on by the House to approve changes made by the Senate.
After the end of the government shutdown, President Obama highlighted three legislative priorities to pass: FY2014 Budget, Immigration reform, and the US Farm Bill. The Farm Bill creates appropriations through 2018 for the Department of Agriculture with provisions like farm subsidies, food conservation, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, and foreign food aid.
Oxfam America has worked this summer pushing for food aid reform and supporting an amendment to increase food aid to those who are most in need. The price of food is rising, and the number of people who are in urgent need of food assistance is not declining. The food aid amendment would change the way that food aid is administered. Currently, less than half of the food aid funding goes towards actual food. Of the food purchased, most of it is foreign to the receiving country and arrives in bulk, forcing populations in need to wait months between shipments.
The food aid reform amendment did not make it into the current Farm Bill, so no reform exists in the bill. In addition, the bill continues to include subsidies, and as Oxfam America stated in a press release after the Senate vote, “Overall, the Farm Bill continues to create serious problems by subsidizing big agribusiness at the expense of poor farmers and taxpayers.”
The Farm Bill has been criticized because it creates large farm subsidies for US farmers, allowing them to produce products at a cheaper price than their international competitors, which in turn hurts poorer farmers around the world who cannot compete with these subsidies. Overproduction is another concern. Farmers are paid by the government for whatever they produce rather than what is consumed, and a large amount of food is wasted.
Additionally, the United States lost a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with Brazil over cotton production. The US needs to reform its cotton subsidies in relation to the WTO ruling or could face retaliation from Brazil backed by the WTO. The US Farm Bill, as written now, does not change its cotton subsidies in light of this WTO ruling.
Oxfam America will continue working to reform the US Farm Bill so that foreign food aid is more efficient and can properly benefit those in need. Though no reforms have made it into the current bill, progress has been made in spreading a message about reform. This will hopefully lead to change in the future.