News / Economy

    US Agriculture Industry Opposes Changes to Food Aid Program

    US Agriculture Industry Opposes Changes to Food Aid Programi
    X
    June 18, 2013 6:59 PM
    The Food for Peace program costs about $1.5 billion annually and provides U.S.-grown food to countries in need. But President Barack Obama’s proposed 2014 budget includes changes to the 59-year-old program -- replacing some commodity shipments with direct cash purchases in foreign countries. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports -- while some aid agencies welcome the proposed changes, farmers and millers in the midwestern United States say the changes will hurt their business and cost U.S. jobs.
    US Agriculture Industry Opposes Changes to Food Aid Program
    The Food for Peace program costs about $1.5 billion annually and provides U.S.-grown food to countries in need. But President Barack Obama’s proposed 2014 budget includes changes to the 59-year-old program - replacing some commodity shipments with direct cash purchases in foreign countries. While some aid agencies welcome the proposed changes, farmers and millers in the midwestern United States say the changes will hurt their business and cost U.S. jobs.

    Plano, Illinois, farmer Bill Wykes has been behind the wheel of a tractor for almost four decades, planting and harvesting corn and soybeans on land his family has owned even longer.

    Throughout his entire career, he’s known that even though it’s a small amount, part of what he grows will help those who need it most.

    “We’re glad to see it go and be used and help millions of people over the years to prevent malnutrition, starvation and things like that,” Wykes said.

    Since the 1950s, commodities produced in the fertile farmlands of the United States have traveled across the globe to feed more than 3 billion people in 150 countries under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food for Peace program.  

    It’s been a source of pride for farmers like Wykes, who are strongly opposed to the Obama administration’s plan to send cash to countries in need instead of commodities.

    “It’s a ridiculous, ridiculous idea. These things can only be done in certain areas and the United States has the best quality, and why not give them the best quality instead of trying to provide them with cash to go to a market that doesn’t have the quality or the commodity that is really needed,” Wykes said.

    But U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak said changes to the program are necessary because it takes too long to get U.S. food aid where it’s urgently needed.

    “The way we currently do business can basically add 11 to 14 weeks of delay in terms of getting food where it's needed most in an emergency circumstance, and the reality is that is far too long.  This is about saving time and saving lives,” Vilsak said.

    But for Dow Didion, who runs Didion Milling in Cambria, Wisconsin, saving time could mean eliminating some of his 212 employees.

    “We have a large number of people in this portion of the business from processing to packaging to quality assurance to logistics, so it would impact us in the jobs area,” Didion said.

    Didion’s mill processes and packages hundreds of thousands of bags of U.S. food aid each month.  Each bag with a U.S. flag is bound for foreign ports.  Didion says that sends a stronger message than money.

    “I don’t feel that cash will have the same impact that a bag that says “gift of the United States” will have. We are concerned about feeding the starving people a quality product, and have concerns if the program turns into a cash program, what will that money be used for,” Didion said.

    Farm Bill legislation making its way through both houses of Congress significantly scales back President Obama’s plan to overhaul the Food for Peace program.

    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8769
    JPY
    USD
    107.28
    GBP
    USD
    0.6842
    CAD
    USD
    1.2528
    INR
    USD
    66.384

    Rates may not be current.