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The Best Kept Secret in the Farm Bill

February 26, 2008

Des Moines, IA – The United States provides a large portion of the food aid sent to hungry people around the world. However, while food aid is a big part of the U.S. Farm Bill, it often gets lost in the shuffle in the current Farm Bill debate.

Bruce Babcock, director of the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development at Iowa State University, says our taxpayer dollars might be better spent on programs that send cash to humanitarian agencies to buy local food instead of sending U.S.-grown commodities.

"Farmers in those countries see their price decline because of the influx of U.S. commodities, whereas if you just gave money to the agencies, they would buy from the local farmers and the local farmers' price would be increased, thereby increasing development."

Babcock says the reason we haven't made the switch is because our laws require that food aid be purchased from American farmers, processed and bagged in the U.S., and shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels.

"So there is a big lobby of vested interest that would be against giving cash rather than commodities."

In his State of the Union address, President Bush renewed his longstanding call for revisions to the food aid program so that at least a part of it can be delivered as cash, but so far Congress has ignored the President's request.

Dick Layman/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - IA