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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs