News / USA

Lawmakers Question US Food Aid Proposal

The Obama administration plans to ship fewer U.S. food commodities to countries in need and instead buy more from developing world farmers closer to the area. The proposal marks a major shift in the 60-year program known as Food for Peace.

From floods and earthquakes to wars and chronic food shortages, the United States is the world’s largest donor of food aid.  But budgets are extremely tight in Washington these days. So U.S. Agency for International Development chief Rajiv Shah says he is proposing reform.

“This reform is designed to reach 4 million additional children with basic core nutrition during times of extreme need without asking for additional funds,” Shah said.

Shah said buying food in the affected region, or providing cash or vouchers to people in need, is up to 50 percent cheaper than buying and shipping food from the U.S. Plus, it gets to where it’s needed up to 14 weeks sooner.

The amount of food bought and shipped from the U.S. would decrease from about 85 percent today to 55 percent under the administration’s proposal.

But Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder said any decrease in food coming from the U.S. would cost American jobs. He said that would be hard for farm communities to accept.

“Certainly that would need to be explained to constituents why that choice was made to pay farmers in other countries as opposed to pay farmers here,” Yoder said.

And Yoder questioned whether buying locally is always cheaper.  

“At least some information shows that local and regional purchase, cash transfer programs are not necessarily less expensive than U.S. food aid,” Yoder said.

Shah said that study after study has found sourcing locally is more efficient.  

“And this is why, I believe, every past director of the World Food Program and the current one, almost all the major NGOs, most experts that have looked at this, all of my predecessors and major CEOs in the agricultural space all believe this is the right thing to do,” Shah said.

And Shah added that while food aid may have been a bigger market for farmers in the past…

“Today, Food for Peace in its entirety is about a half of one percentage point of total value of agricultural exports. And going from 85 percent to 55 percent is probably something less than that,” Shah said.

The proposal also faces opposition from U.S. shippers, who say delivering food aid helps keep a shrinking U.S. merchant marine fleet afloat.

This hearing and another in the Senate Wednesday were the first since the president’s budget was released earlier this month.

Analysts say it faces an uphill battle on Capitol Hill.

Related video report by Steve Baragona
Obama Proposes Food Aid Overhauli
April 11, 2013 2:42 AM
President Obama’s new budget proposes major changes to how the United States distributes international food aid. The administration says its proposal would reach up to 4 million more needy people around the world at no extra cost. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs