A Novel Idea: Food Aid That Prioritizes the Hungry
As we reported here in February, the Bush administration has been pushing for years to create a more efficient food aid program by allowing crops to be purchased overseas when it would benefit the hungry population. (Currently, all food must be purchased from U.S. farmers, leading to months-long delivery times, almost certainly at the expense of lives). The proposal has gone nowhere due to intense opposition from ag-state lawmakers, leading the White House to blast Congress for prioritizing local industry over starving people.
Strange, then, to learn that the same Bush administration, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, has been shifting its African food aid strategy from one promoting local farming to one simply providing emergency food — crops that are purchased from American growers under the same system that the president has so vocally criticized.
But a report to be released today by the Government Accountability Office reveals just that, according to The Washington Post, which got its hands on an early copy. From the Post:
The report … describes U.S. aid efforts in sub-Saharan Africa as fragmented and misdirected. It says, for instance, that a Bush administration initiative to “end hunger in Africa” launched in 2002 effectively amounted to a repackaging of existing programs and came with no new funding.
At the same time, USAID, the main humanitarian aid arm of the U.S. government, has shifted away from promoting better crops, focusing instead on providing emergency food aid “to the detriment of actions designed to address the fundamental causes of these emergencies, including low agricultural productivity and other factors.”
Seems that the White House appreciates those farm-state subsidies more than they’ve let on. Chalk this one up as another peril of protectionist policy.