Less Cash Buys More Food
The federal government is contemplating a change to its long-standing food-aid program by substituting donations of cash for donations of actual food. Cash donations are already favored by most aid-giving countries because they are faster and more efficient to execute than food donations.
Sending food aid instead of financial aid has served the dual effects of feeding hungry people and creating a new demand and market for American foodstuffs.
A 2012 study from Cornell University indicates that the American financial investment in foreign aid can be put to more efficient use by sending cash to be used to purchase grain locally, says Reuters. That can cut costs by close to 50 percent while supporting the economies of that area.
Under the current food aid program, the federal government buys food from American suppliers and distributes it overseas.
History Of Food For Peace
In 1949, the United States sent thousands of shipments of food to Western Europe under the Marshall Plan, laying the foundation for the country’s food aid program.
President Eisenhower then signed the Agricultural Trade Development Assistance Act into law in 1954 which established Food For Peace, the U.S.’s primary overseas food aid organization. The purpose of the policy was to “lay the basis for a permanent expansion of our exports of agricultural products with lasting benefits to ourselves and to people of other lands,” said the president, as reprinted by USAID.
Several agricultural trade organizations, including, most prominently, the American Soybean Association, are displeased with the proposed shift.
“Growing, manufacturing, bagging, shipping, and transporting nutritious U.S. food creates jobs and economic activity here at home, provides support for our U.S. Merchant Marine, essential to our national defense sealift capability, and sustains a robust domestic constituency for these programs not easily replicated in alternative foreign aid programs,” these groups wrote in a letter to President Obama and Senate leaders, says Farm Futures.
Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Thad Chochran (R-MS), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) have also signed a letter to President Obama in opposition to the proposed changes.
The senators argue that if the United States substitutes cash aid for food aid, a significant part of Eisenhower’s original purpose for the Food For Peace program — to create new markets for American agricultural exports — would be lost.
The White House has not yet issued a statement about the proposal.