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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid