With one common sense reform to the U.S. food aid program, we can save many more lives without spending one cent more. Take Action Now or read on for more information.
The United States provides food aid to millions of hungry people in places where war, famine, or severe poverty have disrupted food production or distribution. But U.S. law requires that nearly all food aid be grown in the U.S. and shipped at great expense across vast oceans.
Much of the aid winds up subsidizing U.S. agricultural and shipping companies and often undercutting poor farmers in the affected country, making it less likely they will be able to earn a living and feed themselves in the future.
We can save more lives by changing the rules to allow some aid to be provided in cash either to purchase food locally or to allow poor people to buy food for themselves.
The Bush adminstration has already been convinced to support this reform. We just need to convince Congress. (Take action here.)
If this reform goes through, at least three-quarters of food aid will continue to function the same way it does today. But it is an important change.
Under the current program, people in need may die because food from the United States cannot arrive in time. Farmers in poor countries may see the price of their produce fall due to an influx of cheap or free food. The cost involved in shipping food from the United States means less food can be delivered.
A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that, over the last five years, as a result of rising business and shipping costs, delivered food has fallen by half even as the number of hungry people worldwide has stayed the same.
The Bush administration, supported by development groups like Oxfam, would like the change the law to allow up to a quarter of U.S. food aid to be used to purchase food directly in developing countries.
A key obstacle to change is intense lobbying from corporate agricultural and shipping interests. We can form a larger group of citizen lobbyists with an interest in a common sense reform that will ultimately save more lives.
Although the administration has been pushing this reform for the past two years, until recently, news media have given limited attention to this issue and the majority of the U.S. public has not heard of it. We can transform the debate on food aid and help save hundreds of thousands of lives.