Industry groups want U.S.-only commodities for food aid program
A group of 20 industry lobbies, representing a cross section of agricultural products shippers and ocean transport services providers, wants Congress to ax a Bush administration initiative to allow purchases of U.S. food aid from foreign sources.
The Bush administration has asked Congress to allow up to a quarter of the Food for Peace budget in fiscal 2009 to be used for foreign food aid purchases, according to wire service Reuters on Monday.
The administration's battle with industry to permit purchases of food aid overseas has been ongoing for several years, but has escalated in the past year with rapidly rising food and transportation costs cutting deeply into the amount of food the federal government can actually buy.
In a letter to the House Appropriations' agriculture subcommittee, obtained by Reuters, the groups said cash-for-food purchase plans have come up short. 'When the Europeans migrated to local purchase, their contributions to world hunger relief dropped dramatically. The world's hungry cannot afford for us to follow in their footsteps,' the groups said.
The groups also asked Congress to raise the overall budget for the fiscal 2009 Food for Peace program to $1.8 billion, compared to the administration's request of $1.2 billion. Food for Peace is the U.S. government's largest international food aid program.
However, the debate over whether the United States should provide cash for local food aid purchases is expected to continue.
In an urgent appeal to governments on March 20, the United Nations World Food Program cited the cost-saving benefits of local food aid purchases. The Rome-based organization has made 80 percent of its food purchases, about $612 million worth, in local and regional markets of the developing world.
'In 2007 alone, we increased our local purchases by 30 percent,' the WFP said. 'This not only saves on food and transport costs but is a win for local farmers, helping to break the cycle of hunger at its root.'