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I testified before the committee of the House of Representatives that has primary responsibility for appropriations to foreign aid and foreign affairs programs.

You can watch a three-minute video of my testimony, or if you would like to read the full-length version, read it below. They are different, and I think you will find them both of interest.


Testimony to the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

February 24, 2020

Submitted by

David Beckmann

President, Bread for the World

Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Rogers, Members of the Committee. I am David Beckmann. I’ve been president of Bread for the World for nearly 30 years and am retiring from this position this summer.

Thank you

I mainly want to thank this Committee for the historic impact you have made.

When I started at Bread for the World in 1991, about 25 percent of the world’s people were hungry. That number has fallen to almost 10 percent.

At Bread for the World, we have come to see the dramatic reduction of hunger and poverty in the world as an experience of our loving God – a great exodus from hunger. And we are thrilled that U.S. poverty-focused assistance has contributed to this great liberation.

Funding for poverty-focused assistance has quadrupled over the last 30 years, and aid programs have improved in quality. This Committee has played a leadership role in this great achievement.

President Trump has urged deep cuts in foreign assistance. But with strong bipartisan leadership, Congress has continued to increase poverty-related aid. That’s one reason why the human development indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals are mostly still going in the right direction.

Thank you.


Bread for the World’s main request of this Committee is that you increase the Global Nutrition line item of the Global Health Programs account by $50 million. That will bring the appropriation to $200 million.

We also urge you to commend USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy and U.S. Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan. These are strategies to integrate what we now know about nutrition into other relevant aid programs in USAID and across the government.

Studies published just eleven years ago gave the world new knowledge about how much damage malnutrition does to babies and little children and about how to reduce this scourge cost-effectively. Malnutrition contributes to half the child deaths in the world, and many more children suffer stunting – permanent damage to their bodies and brains. Thanks partly to new-style, evidence-based programs in many countries there are 22 million fewer stunted children in the world than 10 years ago!

The United States has provided leadership within the global nutrition movement and helped to fund evidence-based programs. USAID’s nutrition program focused on 19 countries between 2009 and 2016. Stunting in these countries dropped from 40 to 34 percent.

I had the opportunity to visit nutrition programs in Ethiopia and Guatemala last fall. Mothers bring their babies to be weighed and measured. If a baby shows signs of malnutrition, the mom is given fortified baby food. All the mothers learn about nutrition – lessons such as the benefits of extended breastfeeding and handwashing with soap. Best-practice nutrition programs like these don’t cost much, and they have extraordinarily high returns for children and national development.

The impact of programs in other sectors – humanitarian assistance, agriculture, and health – can be improved by taking advantage of what we now know about mother-child nutrition. USAID’s Feed the Future program, for example, was designed to promote agricultural development and, at the same, reduce child malnutrition. In the Feed the Future focus regions of Kenya, Ethiopia, Nepal, and Ghana, stunting has been reduced by 40 percent, 30 percent, 24 percent, and 18 percent, respectively. As Ambassador Mark Green stated, “food security investments on the development side is one of the true highlights [of] American foreign policy and development policy.” Additionally, USAID has now established a Nutrition Leadership Council, composed of senior leaders from several bureaus. Their charge is to elevate nutrition to a priority, crossing cutting issue for the Agency.

Bread for the World has focused our main campaign, our annual Offering of Letters, on child nutrition in 2019 and now again in 2020. We are asking the 2.5 million people and 3,000 local churches in our network to urge their members of Congress to support increased funding and U.S. global leadership for improved nutrition. A strong coalition of partner organizations, including many religious bodies and organizations, is working with us.

Last year we rallied around global nutrition resolutions in both houses of Congress. They both urged sustained U.S. leadership on global nutrition, and they both commended USAID for its commitment to mother-child nutrition and its Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy. H.Res.189, introduced by Jim McGovern (D-MA-02) and Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS-11), has been cosponsored by a thoroughly bipartisan group of 154 cosponsors. It passed the Foreign Affairs Affairs Committee unanimously in October. The full Senate passed its version of the global nutrition resolution in January.

It’s wonderful to see how Americans across the political spectrum have been drawn together in churches and communities across the country and in Congress by the opportunity to help end child malnutrition.

Congress increased its appropriation to the global nutrition account by $20 million in FY 2019 and another $5 million in FY 2020. We are grateful, but we are urging you to increase funding for nutrition by another $50 million in FY 2021.

An appropriation of $200 million for nutrition could treat 2 million acutely malnourished children, save 20,000 lives, provide nutrition education to 9 million mothers, and prevent stunting for 370,000 children. It could also fund implementation research to further improve nutrition interventions.

An increased appropriation for global nutrition is especially important this year, because Japan will be hosting a major summit on nutrition in December. The summit will convene governments, businesses, multilateral organizations, private donors, and others to agree on a shared approach over the coming decade and commit new resources. An expansion of the nutrition account to $200 million will demonstrate U.S. commitment and leverage funds from other sources.

Other Priority Programs

Grounded in our focus on ending hunger, Bread for the World also urges Congress to:

  • Allocate $60 billion to International Affairs generally.

  • Fully fund the U.S. global health programs at USAID and the State Department at $11.4 billion. The spread of the coronavirus virus right now again demonstrates our nation’s self-interest stake in good health systems around the world.

  • Fully fund for the U.S. Global Food Security Strategy at $1.03 billion. We especially appreciate the inclusion of fragile states in the current generation of Feed the Future countries.

  • Fund International Disaster Assistance at $4.524 billion, including funding for the treatment and prevention of acute malnutrition in humanitarian programs.

  • Support multilateral development organizations – the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) at $1.127 billion, the African Development Fund (ADF) at $175 million, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at $40 million.

  • Protect funding for the Northern Triangle of Central America, including funding for nutrition and food security.

  • Provide funding for the programs that Congress authorized in the Global Fragility Act.

  • Provide funding for programs that address climate change adaptation and mitigation: $320 million for biodiversity programs, $142 million for the Global Environmental Facility, $500 million for the Green Climate Fund, $181 million for adaptation, $183 million for renewable energy, and $139 million for sustainable landscapes.

I think it will be helpful to explain why we included the final four bullet points on this list.

Multilateral development organizations. For several years now, the United States has not met its financial commitments to IDA and the African Development Bank. The Administration decided not to participate in negotiations for the next replenishment of IFAD. We are impressed by the effectiveness of these institutions. They leverage U.S. contributions with funding from other donor nations and the governments of the countries in which they invest. They provide intellectual leadership on development issues and work in close partnership with developing-country governments.

Congress should send a clear signal of U.S. support with its appropriations to IDA, the ADF, and IFAD and by reauthorizing IDA and the African Development Fund.

Northern Triangle. During my visit to Guatemala last fall, I observed USAID-fund NGO projects and reviewed the USAID program of grants. They were focused on reducing hunger and poverty and strengthening democracy – exactly what these countries most need and would most powerfully stem the flow of migrants into the United States.

President Trump’s decision to freeze aid to the Northern Triangle in Central America forced NGOs to lay off staff or end projects. Bread for the World supports all report language that helps make sure that congressional decisions about aid to the Northern Triangle are implemented.

Global Fragility Act. Increased conflict around the world is one reason why progress against world hunger has stalled and forced migration has surged. Nearly half of all the hungry people in the world now live in fragile states, countries that are struggling with violence.

To work effectively in fragile states, it’s important to coordinate relief, development, and stabilization activities. Administrator Green’s re-organization should encourage that within USAID. The Global Fragility Act should help the U.S. government as a whole coordinate security, diplomacy, and aid activities in the Sahel. We hope you will appropriate the funds that the Global Fragility Act has authorized.

Climate Change. Climate change is also contributing to world hunger, violence, and forced migration. Subsistence farm families are left desperate when the rains don’t come on time. Our recommendations highlight programs that help poor people in developing countries cope with climate change or help developing countries reduce their contributions to climate change.

In closing, I again want to express my gratitude for the extraordinary contribution this Committee is making to our nation and world.

The wave of newly elected, super-conservative “Tea Party” candidates who came to Congress in 2011 were itching to shut the government down if they didn’t get their way. By refusing to compromise, they managed to get the entire Republican Party in Congress to push for deep, deep cuts in nearly all the programs that provide help and opportunity to people in poverty in our country and around the world. A group of church leaders – liberal and conservative, Protestant and Catholic – came together as the “Circle of Protection.” We were joined by the top leaders of many and diverse church bodies and organizations in resisting cuts to funding for poverty-focused programs. We met with political leaders in both parties, including both President Barack Obama and Speaker Paul Ryan, urging them not to cut these programs. Bread for the World and some of the other groups mobilized grassroots support from church members and others throughout the country.

Between 2011 and 2018, every budget that passed either house of Congress proposed to cut roughly $2 trillion from low-income programs over ten years. The nation weathered repeated budget crises and government shutdowns, and President Trump added strength to the push for cuts. But remarkably, Congress decided again and again – always by narrow votes – against any substantial cuts to low-income programs. The Circle of Protection played a significant role in this important outcome. At the end of 2019, Congress approved the first increases in low-income programs since 2010.

But at about the same time, the Trump Administration began unveiling proposed changes in administrative rules intended to achieve some of the cuts that Congress had rejected. I’ve been a co-chair of the Circle of Protection since it began, and it fell to me to draft a Circle of Protection statement that explains and opposes this line of the Administration activity:


Church Leaders Speak Out:

Administration Actions that Affect People in Poverty

Published February 11, 2020

As leaders from all the families of U.S. Christianity, representing church bodies and networks serving more than 100 million Americans, we are concerned about administration action to cut safety net programs that help low-income people. The gospel of God’s love for all people moves us to speak together on this issue.

On April 10, 2018, President Trump issued Executive Order 13828, “Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.” It instructed government departments to look for ways to reduce the number of people who depend on help from means-tested programs.

We support the goal of helping Americans move from poverty to financial independence. But some of the administration’s policy changes and proposed cuts in funding for low-income programs are likely to add to the hunger, poverty, and economic insecurity which are already far too widespread in our country:

  • The Department of Agriculture has proposed three new rules that could cut SNAP food assistance for 3.7 million people and eliminate the automatic eligibility of 1 million children to free or reduced-price school meals.

  • The administration has taken a series of actions to reduce the number of people who get health insurance on the Affordable Health Care exchanges,v and the number of people covered by health insurance has dropped by 7 million since the end of 2016. The administration now wants to allow states to impose work requirements on Medicaid. Courts have ruled that this is inconsistent with the law. But Arkansas moved ahead before the courts acted, and 18,000 people lost health insurance. If work requirements on Medicaid are implemented nationwide, 1.4 million to 4 million people may lose health insurance. Finally, the administration has announced a proposed rule change that would allow states to convert into a block grant the federal funding they receive to expand Medicaid coverage. Over time, block-granting could take health insurance away from many families who live on the edge of poverty.

  • The administration has proposed two housing measures that would increase poverty. One would reduce protection from discrimination against people with disabilities, seniors and people of color. Another would evict from public housing 100,000 legal immigrants whose families include undocumented people.

  • The administration has proposed changes in how the poverty line is calculated that would, over time, reduce means-tested assistance for millions more people.

Courts have ruled that many of these changes are inconsistent with the law. But the administration is appealing, and the Supreme Court last month decided to let a new rule that affects immigrants go into effect. From now on, immigrants who receive only a small amount of public assistance may be disqualified from ever achieving residency status. Even before this rule went into effect, the threat of it was enough to convince millions of people to forgo needed assistance with food or health care.

The administration has also restricted opportunities and protection for immigrants, refugees and people of color in other ways, and our nation has neglected humanitarian concerns in other parts of the world.

President Trump yesterday released a budget that proposes even more massive cuts to low-income programs over the next 10 years. As Congress considers and passes FY21 appropriations bills, we ask them to maintain adequately funded safety net programs that provide help and opportunity for our most vulnerable neighbors, both at home and abroad.

Continued growth of the U.S. economy since 2010 has improved job opportunities for many struggling families. But while the stock market has soared, poverty and hunger have declined very gradually. Neither the administration nor Congress has taken any steps to address our ballooning federal debt and deficits in order to preserve our nation’s long-term economic health.

We can do better. Jesus taught that the peoples of the world will be judged by what we do for the hungry, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner (Matthew 25:31-46).

As the Circle of Protection, we have been asking all the presidential candidates to make short video statements in answer to the question, “What would you do to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in our country and around the world?” We have worked in a bipartisan way to bring our request to the attention of all the candidates, and eight of them have made statements (see We invite President Trump to make a poverty statement and respond to our concerns.


Members of the Circle of Protection Steering Committee

*Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church

The Most Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Walter Kim, President, National Association of Evangelicals

Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Ambassador and General Superintendent Emerita, Wesleyan Church

*Rev. Carlos Malavé, Executive Director, Christian Churches Together U.S.A. (in his personal capacity)

Dr. Mary Nelson, Interim President, Christian Community Development Association

Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Dr. Gabriel Salguero, President, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Rev. Lori Tapia, National Pastor for Hispanic Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

*Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners

*Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network and President, Skinner Leadership Institute

Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches

* Circle of Protection Steering Committee CoCoordinators are marked with an asterisk

  • Writer's pictureRev. David Beckmann

The political environment for efforts to provide help and opportunity to people in poverty is extraordinarily difficult. President Trump’s policies are almost entirely opposed to the policies Bread for the World favors. Also, bitter political polarization makes it hard to get anything done in Washington, especially with national elections on the horizon. Yet as shown on the attached one-pager, Bread for the World was able to report several advocacy achievements.

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