Congress urged to maintain policy of in-kind food aid donations
More than a dozen U.S. agricultural trade groups asked congressional lawmakers Thursday to maintain the government’s policy of providing in-kind food aid donations to starving populations, as opposed to handing out cash to buy food from sources geographically closer to trouble spots.
The Bush administration, through the proposed 2007 Farm Bill, wants Congress to authorize the use of up to 25 percent of the country’s largest food aid program (P.L. 480 Title II) budget as cash-for-food donations.
“We believe that diverting such a significant amount of limited Title II resources for these purposes would be counterproductive,” said John Gillcrist, director of the North American Millers’ Association, who testified before the House Agriculture Committee’s Specialty Crops, Rural Development, and Foreign Agriculture Programs Subcommittee on behalf of the Agricultural Food Aid Coalition.
“Our in-kind donation system is working,” he added. “We believe that in-kind food aid is the most dependable form of food aid and the least susceptible to fraud or misuse.”
The United States provides more than 50 percent of the world’s in-kind food aid each year. The coalition noted that since the European Union, through its Common Agricultural Policy reform process, converted its in-kind food aid to cash contributions, its overall food aid contributions went down and the timeliness of cash contributions suffered.
“Programs such as pre-positioning of food commodities and processed products closer to recipient countries and expedited procurement and shipping procedures can increase the efficiency of in-kind food aid and cut down on the time and costs of responding to emergencies,” Gillcrist said.
The coalition admits that the U.S. farm economy benefits from the federal government’s in-kind food aid programs.
“One billion dollars of processed Title II commodities donated generates $2.7 billion in U.S. economic activity,” Gillcrist said. “If that same $1 billion were donated in cash, the U.S. would lose $2.7 billion in economic activity and all of the benefits accrued to that, including the tax revenues it would generate.”
In addition to the North American Millers’ Association, coalition members include the American Soybean Association, Global Food and Nutrition Inc., International Food Additives Council, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Oilseed Processors Association, National Potato Council, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, USA Rice Federation, U.S. Dry Bean Council, and U.S. Wheat Associates.