Just a quick note on a political matter in the States right now. Congress is currently putting the final touches to it’s latest Farm Bill, a vast and sprawling set of agricultural policies that comes around every five years. There are all sorts of unjust and environmentally unsound aspects to it, but among them is a particularly pernicious policy on food aid, which may have serious repercussions for the global food crisis.
Under the regulations, all food aid would have to be bought in the US. It’s a simple idea – billions of dollars are spent in aid every year to help out hungry countries who have suddenly found themselves with no food. If those billions are spent in the US, they’ll contribute to the US economy, and the food can then be shipped to the places it is needed. It’s been standard practice for some time.
At face value, that’s a waste of time and shipping. It usually takes four months longer for ’emergency’ food aid to reach the hungry if its sourced in the US. But dig a little deeper – the food aid could be bought locally, from farmers within the country that are still producing, or from the nearest places with a surplus. This would support local farmers and suppliers, and help to build local agriculture for the future. Instead, the US puts its own economy first, and the result is a glut of foreign food aid that undercuts local farmers. When local agriculture is undermined in this way, farmers go bankrupt. The net result is that for the sake of US profits, even less food is grown in countries where people are already starving.
It had been proposed that at least a quarter of emergency food aid should be bought locally, but this has been removed in favour of an opportunity to shift US surpluses – essentially a form of subsidy at the expense of the starving. It’s a shameless and craven policy that makes the global food crisis far worse. It’s the worst kind of ‘aid’, that is only thinly disguised profiteering.
It’s not too late to stop this, or at least to re-introduce the one-quarter clause. The Farm Bill hasn’t passed yet, and Sojourners are campaigning on it at the moment. If you’re an American reader, please Click here for their current form letter, and petition your congressman.