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Missouri’s Members Of Congress Should Support Food Aid Reform

Recalling her childhood in rural Missouri, Caroline Rouse, a junior at Yale University and a USAID intern, writes in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch opinion piece, “[O]ne document inextricably links American farmers to international policy: Public Law 480,” which “regulates the United States’ international food aid program Food for Peace” and is a component of the Farm Bill that expired on Monday. She says the U.S. “is the only major donor country that still insists on” food aid shipments coming from American farms, whereas “[m]ost countries, including Canada, Japan and members of the European Union, have moved away from physical shipments of food.” She notes, “Instead, they use aid budgets to purchase commodities in local and regional markets, closer to a recipient country. Untying aid shortens delivery times, reduces transportation costs, and encourages agricultural production in developing regions.”

Rouse discusses a failed amendment to the Farm Bill that would have allowed up to 45 percent of funds in the Food for Peace program to be used for aid other than U.S. commodities, saying no Missouri representative voted for reform. “For farmers, the reform will have little effect,” as “[f]ood aid accounts for less than 0.5 percent of our agricultural exports, and less than 0.2 percent of our total agricultural production,” she writes, adding, “The success of the American farmer, or the Missouri farmer, in particular, is by no means dependent on international aid programs.” She continues, “When it comes to food aid, the Farm Bill is not about farmers. It is not about big agribusinesses, which rely on aid contracts for miniscule fractions of their revenues,” but it “is about the people it feeds.” Rouse concludes, “As Congress begins to craft a new Farm Bill, Missouri needs to stand with California, Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana, and the other leading agricultural states whose congressmen have already expressed support for food aid reform. Then we can take pride in helping the world’s hungry, knowing our representatives will do the same” (10/3).