The Norman Transcript

Opinion

May 13, 2013

U.S. must reform program

NORMAN — America sends about $1.4 billion a year in emergency food aid to needy people around the world through the Food for Peace Program. By law, practically all that aid is produced in the U.S. and shipped by U.S. companies to far-flung places. Some food donations get sold once they’re delivered overseas, to fund development projects.

That’s a terribly expensive and inefficient system. The high costs of growing and shipping food here mean fewer people get fed. Delivering huge amounts of U.S. grain and other farm products distorts the local markets where it is delivered. It forces prices down, discouraging local farmers from raising staple crops where the need for food is greatest. Selling U.S. commodities abroad also is an inefficient way to raise money for development projects. Getting the food across the ocean boosts its cost by one-third.

The food program is an agricultural subsidy in disguise. Requiring the purchase of U.S. goods, transported only on U.S. ships, creates profits for American farmers and the agribusiness giants that control shipping. But American taxpayers don’t get their money’s worth.

Food aid is supposed to help relieve suffering. This program desperately needs to change, but the farm lobby works furiously to protect its vested interests. Hunger is big business, and Food for Peace has been a profit center.

We’re pleased to see the Obama administration make a run at changing that. Congress is under pressure to pass a Farm Bill, the five-year legislation reauthorizing farm subsidy programs. The administration has proposed a modest reform that can save money and feed more people.

Under the plan, about 45 percent of the food aid in 2014 would be used to buy food produced in the countries where it’s consumed. The food could be bought locally in bulk, or individual recipients could receive vouchers or debit cards to purchase what they need. Food bought locally is typically cheaper to produce and it requires no transoceanic shipping. By this simple step, 2 million to 4 million people could be fed each year. The aid could be delivered as much as 14 weeks faster than it is now.

Most other wealthy nations already provide food aid in grant form and decouple it from commercial transactions. In-kind food aid is limited to acute local shortages, or situations where local food markets aren’t functioning.

In the Obama proposal, more than half of U.S. food aid still would be earmarked for the purchase and transport of U.S. commodities, and shippers would receive a government subsidy.

— Chicago Tribune

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Improving children’s lives

    Social service organizations that have long-term debt for their headquarters and operating needs often spend much of their fundraising efforts meeting those obligations....

    July 29, 2014

  • Nutritional article should be accurate

    I read with interest the July 13 article “Are low-carb diets really healthy?” by Cassidie Day. Unfortunately, a number of statements in this article were incorrect. The first problematic statement was, “Carbs are an essential nutrient ...

    July 29, 2014

  • Hospital story headline was too sensationalized

    Editor, The Transcript: On July 18, The Transcript ran a front page article with the headline “Lawsuit filed against Norman Regional — Civil suit alleges improper billing practices by NRH and contracted physicians groups.” As a first page ...

    July 29, 2014

  • Congress should close gaps

    Of all of Edward Snowden’s revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the most unsettling was that the government was accumulating vast numbers of records about the telephone calls of American citizens. In ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Border obsession overlooks trade

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry made headlines recently by ordering 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. This bravado comes at a price: $12 million a month. Perry plans to send the bill the federal government. That’s one way to finance your ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Intercession badly needed in this world

    Yesterday was my feast day, or as the Italians call it, my “onomastico.” Since I live in the United States, it went completely unnoticed. If I lived in Italy, however, I would have been showered with cards and phone calls. That’s because ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Help better than commentary

    For the last seven years, I have helped run Hands Helping Paws, an animal welfare and rescue group that fosters Norman’s abandoned animals and advocates for spay and neuter initiatives to reduce our community’s problems with stray and ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Stick to the sports

    Editor, The Transcript: Why must we, especially us nice conservatives, be subjected to political commentary in a sports column? I hear/view Fox News routinely and find their coverage quite acceptable. I also hear/view CNN and MSNBC. I ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Corporation Commission should should evaluate quakes, fracturing

    Editor, The Transcript: Is your house at risk of being damaged in an earthquake because of fracking? Maybe. We’ve seen more earthquakes and tremors in Oklahoma seven months into 2014 than in the two previous years combined. At the same ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Norman can stop fracking before it escalates

    Editor, The Transcript: There are 163 fracked wells within Norman city limits. With growing attention to health and safety concerns, the city is considering changes to the existing oil and gas ordinance....

    July 27, 2014