This week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is scheduled to discuss ways to reform the Food for Peace Program, an international aid program introduced by President Eisenhower in 1954 which has developed to reach tens of millions of people in food-insecure regions every year.
Economist Christopher Barrett, who is author of the award-winning Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting Its Role and Food Security and Sociopolitical Stability and a leading expert on food, agricultural and development economics, will be one of the Senate’s witnesses. He says current cargo and procurement requirements greatly increase the price and slow the delivery of aid and diminish its impact on disaster-affected populations. Congress should eliminate them and pursue more cost-efficient, science-based solutions, he says.
“The credible research on food aid is clear and consistent in finding that restrictions imposed on U.S. international food aid programs waste taxpayer money at great human cost.
“U.S. food aid programs have played a crucial role in saving and improving lives worldwide for more than two hundred years. Nonetheless, the costs of U.S. food aid are excessive, delivery is slow, and the programs have not kept pace with global emergency needs.
“Humanitarian needs are growing globally, while the inflation-adjusted resources available have shrunk dramatically and are distorted by outdated statutory restrictions on domestic commodity and ocean freight procurement.
“Thoroughly discredited myths that these restrictions on U.S. food aid help support military readiness, employ mariners, or boost farm incomes still protect the windfall profits of a few – largely foreign – shippers. Meanwhile, they cost the lives of disaster-affected children, as many as 40,000 annually. U.S. food aid programs are overdue for reforms to promote most cost-effective fulfillment of the programs’ humanitarian mission.”