Let us reiterate, we will only help if we get something out of it

President Obama is trying to change how the US sends food aid to countries in need:

According to people briefed on the soon-to-be released fiscal year 2014 budget, the administration is expected to propose ending the nearly 60-year practice of buying food from American farmers and then shipping it abroad.

The administration is proposing that the government buy food in developing countries instead of shipping food from American farmers overseas, a process that typically takes months. The proposed change to the international food aid program is expected to save millions in shipping costs and get food more quickly to areas that need it.

The administration is also reportedly considering ending the controversial practice of food aid “monetization,” a process by which Washington gives American-grown grains to international charities. The groups then sell the products on the market in poor countries and use the money to finance their antipoverty programs.

Critics of the practice say it hurts local farmers by competing with sales of their crops.

Via here, these are needed changes:

In order to see how egregious current rules are, suppose that there is a famine in Ethiopia (I know, hard to do).  the quickest and most effective thing to do would be to find some farmer or group of farmers in other parts of the country, or in neighboring countries, buy their food and get it to the stricken area.  After all, one key cause of famine is the lack of money, not lack of crops.  But under current law, USAID is basically forbidden from doing that.  Instead, it must buy grain in the United States and ship it several thousand miles to the famine area.  You can imagine the amount of time that that takes; sometimes, several weeks.  it’s a logistic nightmare.  In the meantime, thousands die, usually the weakest such as children and the elderly.

But it’s worse than that.

If the food needs to be shipped, then that means that the shipping must be paid for.  And it sure is: according to a study done by AJWS and Oxfam, nearly 55% of the cost of American international food aid goes not to food, but to shipping costs.  That’s what your tax dollars are going to.

But it’s worse than that.

Just because a ship is flagged American, doesn’t mean that the sailors on it are American.  Hundreds of ships have been flagged under Liberian registry for years, and during much of that time, there was no “Liberia” to speak of.  So your tax dollars are not necessarily going to American jobs, and probably are not.

and he goes on. So this will not only make the program cheaper, it will make it better. Who could be against that?

“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,” the groups wrote.

It’s as if the point of the program was to help Americans–as in: there’s a massive famine in Ethiopia, now how can we make money off it. It’s that crass.

President Bush also tried to change the program and the same groups spoke against it, so it wasn’t changed then. Perhaps this time.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: We help others only if it helps us | Petunias

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