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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid