Tags: obama | farmers | food | aid

Obama Plans to Freeze US Farmers Out of Food Aid

By Cyrus Afzali   |   Friday, 05 Apr 2013 11:46 AM

American farmers are likely to be frozen out of U.S. food aid programs as President Barack Obama moves to feed the world’s hungry with locally grown products.

Trade groups as varied as the USA Rice Federation and the American Maritime Congress are lobbying to halt the change, fearing U.S. companies will be hurt and jobs will be lost, The New York Times reports.

But the administration says the change in policy will save money and allow them to feed 17 million more people a year.

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Obama’s budget — due to be released next week — is expected to propose the government buys food in developing countries for international food aid programs. The administration says the change will save millions in shipping costs and get food to the needy more quickly.

The proposal also reportedly includes ending the practice of giving American-grown grains to international charities which then sell them on the market in poor countries, using the proceeds to finance aid programs.

The United States spends about $1.4 billion each year on food aid and is the only major donor that insists on shipping domestically produced food to humanitarian crisis spots.

“Growing, manufacturing, bagging, shipping, and transportation of 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 foreign aid programs,” trade groups opposing the move wrote to members of Congress.

James Caponiti of the Maritime Congress told the Times, “We are talking about hundreds of jobs lost. This is a very, very bad idea.”

Already 21 farm state senators have signed on to oppose the administration’s plan, the Times reports.

Some charities, including Food for the Hungry, also oppose the changes out of concern that Congress may cut the aid altogether if federal dollars are used to buy food produced abroad.

Others including CARE and Oxfam support the moves, citing the millions spent on shipping.
They both say a rise in shipping costs has led to less food reaching countries in need.

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A 2011 Government Accountability Office report found that the current system is “inherently inefficient” and said $300 million was lost due to inefficiencies.

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