The US Food Aid Industry: Food for Peace or Food for Profit?

Republished from Food First: Institute for Food & Development Policy and written by Brock Hicks.

Posted March 26th, 2013 by kerssen

On February 21st, 69 organizations submitted a letter to President Barack Obama in support of continued funding for Public Law 480 (also known as Food for Peace) and Food for Progress international food aid programs in the FY 2014 budget, and opposing rumored proposals to shift resources to local and regional commodity procurement. The signatory organizations were comprised almost exclusively by the iron triangle of US food aid spending recipients (the US agribusiness, shipping, and international development industries). Funding, which is attached to the Farm Bill, has been reauthorized by President Obama under Title VII of the fiscal cliff legislation through this September. However, these food aid programs depend on congressional appropriations, which have only been approved through March 27th. Big changes, or more of the same, could be in store for food aid legislation in the near future[1].

Currently, US food aid is dominated by in-kind donations (direct gifts of food)-an infamously inefficient system-and monetization, a system in which US agricultural commodities are donated to development organizations so that they can sell them to fund projects. This approach to food aid has been widely criticized for decades, including by the Congress’ Government Accountability Office. The NGO Oxfam, once a beneficiary of PL 480, has been calling for food aid reform for years, putting an emphasis on the need for local commodity procurement. CARE, one of the three major NGO distributors of US food aid across the world, recently followed suit. Canada and Europe have shifted nearly all food aid resources away from in-kind distribution in favor of local procurement. The US, sticking to its M.O., is the loner; in 2007, 99.3% of US food aid was in-kind. Continue reading

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