News / USA

Shriveling US Crops Could Shrink Food Aid

Drought in the United States may make delivering food aid more expensive, according to experts and aid groups, and it could mean less will be given at a time when more people might need it.  

Nearly two-thirds of the United States is in a state of drought. As crops wither under the most serious drought in more than a half-century, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters on Wednesday that USDA has cut this year's harvest estimates for corn and soybeans.

"This will result in significant increases in prices," Vilsack said. "For corn, we've seen a 38 percent increase since June 1 in the price of a bushel of corn.  A bushel of beans has risen 24 percent."

"Workhorse" of food aid

While shortages are not expected, and food aid makes up a miniscule sliver of the U.S. harvest, corn and soybeans are "two key ingredients for the corn-soy blend that is the workhorse for...enriched rations used to address severe acute malnutrition," says Cornell University economist and food aid expert Chris Barrett.  

"The impact on corn and soy prices will disproportionately impact purchases of the products on which relief agencies rely most heavily to meet the...needs of those suffering most acutely from food emergencies," Barrett says.

The United States is the world's largest donor of food aid. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 33 million people worldwide received U.S. food aid at a cost of $1.5 billion.

But price increases likely will strain that budget and could force the U.S to buy less, according to Paul Green at the North American Millers Association, the trade group for companies that produce food aid.   

"Less tonnage means, of course, fewer people responded to in need, while simultaneously an increase in world prices probably means having more people in need," Green says.

Missing targets

Many of the aid groups serving those people in need agree.

Bruce White with Catholic Relief Services says the U.S. government sets targets for how much it will buy each year for groups like his to deliver.  But spikes in food prices can derail those plans.  He says that when prices spiked in 2008, "all of a sudden, we started seeing that it was more and more difficult for the U.S. government to reach those targets."

White says his group and others had to scramble to fill the gaps. Their donors and private companies stepped in to help. But White says he is concerned that there will be gaps again this year.

Ultimately, Congress decides how much the United States will spend on food aid. The Department of Agriculture says it will work with Congress to ensure its programs remain effective.

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