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Chicago Tribune Publishes Opinion Piece, Editorial Discussing Food Aid Reform

The following is a summary of an editorial and an opinion piece published in the Chicago Tribune that address proposed reform to the U.S. food aid program contained in President Obama’s FY 2014 budget request.

  • John Kerry, Tom Vilsack, Rajiv Shah: “Through a program called Food for Peace, America’s agricultural bounty and heartland values have fed well over a billion people in more than 150 countries since 1954,” Secretary of State John Kerry, Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah write. “But while the world has changed significantly since President Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House, our hallmark food assistance program has not evolved with the times,” they continue, adding the “important” reforms proposed by President Barack Obama in his FY14 budget request would feed up to four million more people annually and save an estimated $500 million over 10 years. “At a time of urgent human need and budget constraint, this is the right choice,” they state. The authors summarize some of the proposed changes, which include more flexibility for local food procurement and distribution of cash vouchers, writing, “This more agile, flexible and modern approach pairs the continued purchase of the best of American agriculture with greater flexibility around interventions such as local procurement and electronic payments to save more lives.” They conclude, “By freely and flexibly harnessing the tools we’ve developed and the knowledge we’ve gained, we can save more lives without asking for more money — an opportunity we must not pass up” (5/9).
  • Editorial: “The food program is an agricultural subsidy in disguise,” the Chicago Tribune writes, continuing, “Requiring the purchase of U.S. goods, transported only on U.S. ships, creates profits for American farmers and the agribusiness giants that control shipping. But American taxpayers don’t get their money’s worth.” The newspaper writes, “This program desperately needs to change, but the farm lobby works furiously to protect its vested interests,” and it describes the proposed changes. “Food aid can help to lift developing nations out of poverty, promote political stability and economic growth. It must be structured efficiently to achieve its objective,” the editorial writes, concluding, “As is, the Food for Peace program doesn’t work well, except for the benefit of a privileged few. Reforming food aid would enable America to do justice to a large taxpayer outlay — and to save lives” (5/9).