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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid