On Wednesday, June 12 discussions continued on Capitol Hill in an attempt to push forward a modernization of US international food aid policy according to the Guardian’s Cydney Hargis. HR 1983, the Food Aid Reform Act, would remove laws requiring US food aid to be grown in the United States and then shipped to the receiving countries. Instead, it would allow food aid to be purchased in areas local to the countries receiving it. The impact of the Food Aid Reform Act would be twofold: it would eliminate the time and costs required to ship the food, and it would further stimulate the economies of countries or regions that are receiving US food aid.
Under the Food Aid Reform Act, aid could reach the receiving country up to 14 weeks sooner, giving up to 4 million people better access to food. It would also significantly decrease transportation costs of US food aid, which make up 50 percent of the US food aid budget. Right now US food aid has to travel 7,000 miles to reach its destination and that food chain is vulnerable, especially in conflict zones such as what we are seeing right now in Syria.
The other aspect of the Food Aid Reform Act is the stimulation of the local economy where the food is being produced. When the US ships food to developing countries as aid, the US food can crowd out locally produced food. This is especially important considering that most of the world’s poorest and those without food security are small farmers. In shipping food to aid the poorest in the developing world, the US can prevent these farmers from being able to sell their crops at a profitable price, thereby harming the very people which USAID is supposed to be helping.
Purchasing food aid locally will raise the demand for local food, thereby driving up the price and enabling farmers to gain more profit out of the crops they sell. This profit can then be put towards things like better fertilizers, water pumps, and other things which increase the productivity of these farmers. When these farmers increase their productivity their communities will develop their food security, fixing the very reason that food aid would have to be provided to these developing nations in the first place.
The Food Aid Reform Act is a piece of bipartisan legislation that will go a long way to modernize US foreign aid. It will help stimulate developing economies to bring them further towards contributing significantly to the global economy, which will ultimately lead to a more prosperous international community as a whole.
– Martin Drake