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Opinion Pieces Address Proposed Food Aid Reform

The following is a summary of two opinion pieces addressing proposed reform to the U.S. food aid program contained in President Obama’s FY 2014 budget request.

  • Christopher Barrett, CNN’s “GPS” blog: Noting “the Obama administration’s 2014 budget sensibly proposes that the federal government, for the first time, begin handling most food aid the way all of us manage our charitable contributions: give the money directly to those agencies that help the needy,” Barrett, a professor at Cornell University and author, writes, “The key is the flexibility to move resources quickly and efficiently, saving more lives and giving recipients foods they typically prefer over unfamiliar commodities from a distant continent.” He continues, “Peer-reviewed research on pilot programs run in 2010-11 conclusively supports these claims. … Yet a powerful coalition of U.S. agribusinesses, shippers and a few international development organizations want to block this sensible proposal.” Barrett writes, “This ‘iron triangle’ of special interests benefits from the outdated arrangements, at the expense of taxpayers and hungry people around the world,” adding, “There really is no good economic or humanitarian reason to oppose the administration’s proposed reforms. The only reasons are political” (5/6).
  • Andrew Natsios, U.S. News & World Report’s “World Report”: “Millions of people suffering in famines have been saved by the Food for Peace program. So why has the Obama administration proposed these changes?” Natsios, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, asks. “The proposed reforms are not new, but came out of painful experiences in Afghanistan,” he writes, adding, “USAID was importing several hundred thousand tons of food aid in the form of wheat for Afghan refugees and displaced people.” He continues, “Had USAID purchased its food aid locally from this surplus instead of importing it from the U.S., we could have stabilized Afghan wheat prices and avoided the incentive for farmers to convert their wheat fields to poppy production,” concluding, “Congress should approve the reforms, but only if they provide permanent statutory protection to ensure that the humanitarian food aid budget is used for food for the poor, not for diplomatic purposes” (5/6).