News / USA

Congress Debates Limiting US Farmers' Role in Food Aid

Congress Debates Limiting US Farmers' Role in Food Aidi
X
June 18, 2013 6:08 PM
For nearly 60 years, the United States has been the leading supplier of food aid to people in need around the world. But critics say the system is slow, inefficient and can undermine the very people it is trying to help. Congress is considering legislation that would put more food aid resources in the hands of farmers in the developing world. But the measure faces stiff opposition from the U.S. industries who say the current system is working well. VOA's Steve Baragona reports.
Congress Debates Limiting US Farmers' Role in Food Aid
When starvation looms, speed is critical.

But while the U.S. provides more emergency food aid than any other country, speed is not what it does best.

Andrew Natsios witnessed this shortcoming firsthand during famine in Somalia in 1991.

“I literally watched children die while we waited for food to arrive,” he said at a congressional hearing last week. “It took two to three months. That is what shocked me into realizing we needed changes to the system.”

That was before President George W. Bush made Natsios head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Natsios helped USAID launch pilot programs testing changes to the 60-year-old Food for Peace program. Now, he wants Congress to go further.

He says more food aid should be purchased from local farmers closer to a crisis, rather than shipping it from the U.S. across thousands of miles of ocean.

However, the proposal faces stiff opposition from the U.S. industries who say the current system is working well.

Slow going

For six decades, the United States has been the leading supplier of food aid to people in need around the world.

The law governing Food for Peace requires most U.S. food aid to be American-grown crops sent across the ocean on U.S.-flagged ships.

It’s not only slow. It’s expensive, Natsios said. Shipping and handling eats up half the program’s budget.

When the aid finally does arrive, it can wind up hurting local farmers.

"Local produce may not be able to compete,” says Helene Gayle, president of the aid group CARE. “And it ends up often depressing the local agricultural markets, which is exactly counter to what's in the best interest of long-term development."

Buying direct

On the other hand, those farmers could benefit from selling their crops to an aid agency like USAID.

The U.N. World Food Program’s Purchase for Progress program works with small-scale farmers to improve their quality and productivity so they can sell relief supplies to the aid agency.

Tanzanian farmer Emiliana Aligaesha sells beans to WFP to feed hungry people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I know it’s going to feed people in trouble,” she said, “and it’s good if farmers support people in trouble.”

The aid group Oxfam brought Aligaesha to Washington to tell members of Congress that giving business to small-scale farmers like her can help lift communities out of poverty.

“People will be motivated and cultivate more,” she said. “And if they do this, I believe we can reduce hunger in their family, in their country, even in our neighboring countries.”

Backers want to buy emergency food directly from local farmers or give cash or vouchers so people can buy it from farmers themselves.

Opposition

But many US millers, farmers, food processors and shippers oppose the idea.

Some in the industry worry over the loss of jobs.

But Paul Green, who manages food aid issues for the North American Millers Association, says food aid is a tiny sliver of the business.

“It’s kind-of a pride thing,” he said. “We’re proud to be part of feeding needy folks.”  

Green says the backing of the food industry “has allowed [the U.S.] to maintain for 60 years a program that’s over a billion dollars. That is a very difficult thing to get a constituency for, to maintain that kind of support in a budget item where the recipients are all outside the United States.”

The proposal to hand out cash rather than food also draws fire from skeptics on Capitol Hill.

At last week’s hearing, Republican Congressman Jeff Duncan asked, "How is wiring cash to someone in a developing country a good idea instead of giving them wholesome, nutritious commodities grown by hard-working Americans?"

Many major aid groups cheered when the Obama administration proposed changes to Food for Peace in its latest budget proposal, but observers say those changes have not gained much traction.

The Senate passed small changes in its version of the five year, half-trillion-dollar Farm Bill governing agriculture subsidies and nutrition programs. Attention now turns to the House of Representatives as it debates its version of the Farm Bill.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
June 19, 2013 1:56 AM
Thank you VOA for an articl about a matter of argument, that is, the way of aids for developimng countries.

I think, it is my two cents, it should be determined through the aim of aids. If it is an emergency aids, it should be offered as foods or medicines itself and if it is aimed at long term vision to help them live lives independently, it should be done as some kinds of investment. I suppose all aids should be offered taking account of beneficeris' interests first.

I wonder if any aids which require respect or subsidy to supplyers would be consistent and lasting for a long time.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs