Bloomberg News

Overhaul Seen Expanding U.S. Food Aid to 17 Million More People

March 29, 2012

Buying food overseas to aid needy nations and blocking its resale would let the U.S. assist an additional 17.1 million people, Oxfam America and the American Jewish World Service said in a report.

Overhauling U.S. aid programs would cut payments to U.S. farmers while making the nation more effective in offering assistance, which exceeded $2 billion for 65 million people in 2010, according to a study released today. The change wouldn’t add to federal spending, a consideration as Congress debates reauthorizing farm programs that set aid policies, said Paul O’Brien, America vice president of Oxfam, a British-based relief organization.

“Save lives. Save tax dollars,” O’Brien said in a statement. “This is a no-brainer.”

Shipping food to poor nations, then selling it to pay for other projects, reduced U.S. humanitarian purchasing power by $219 million over three years, the Government Accountability Office said in a report last year. Rules that require buying food from U.S. farmers, rather than from providers closer to a famine-stricken area, wastes money, the watchdog also found.

A shift to buying commodities in the region may not provide the local-purchase benefits cited by advocates, said Bryant Gardner, a Washington lawyer who represents ship lines. Costs to deliver the food within a region are significant and would remain even if U.S. farmers and shipping companies are cut from the program.

“Ton for ton, ocean transportation is the most economically and environmentally sound mode of transportation available,” he said.

The U.S. provided almost $2.3 billion to alleviate hunger and encourage development in third-world nations in 2010, more than half of such donations worldwide.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alan Bjerga in Washington at abjerga@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net.


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