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
Kane Farabaugh
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.

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

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

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9109
JPY
USD
121.50
GBP
USD
0.6467
CAD
USD
1.2293
INR
USD
63.559

Rates may not be current.