Thursday July 17, 2014
The U.S. government loves to preen about its generosity to the world’s downtrodden. However, a long series of presidents and their tools have scorned the evidence that their aid programs perennially clobber recipients. Nowhere is this clearer than in the sordid history of U.S. food aid.
Food for Peace was devised in 1954 to help dump abroad embarrassingly huge crop surpluses fomented by high federal price supports. The primary purpose of Public Law 480 (in which the program is embodied) has been to hide the evidence of the failure of other farm programs. Although PL-480 sometimes alleviates hunger in the short run, the program disrupts local agricultural markets and makes it harder for poor countries to feed themselves in the long run.
The Agriculture Department (USDA) buys crops grown by American farmers, has them processed or bagged by U.S. companies, and pays lavishly to send them overseas in U.S.-flagged ships. At least 25 percent of food aid must be shipped from Great Lakes ports, per congressional mandate. Once the goods arrive at their destination, the Agency for International Development (USAID) often takes charge or bestows the food on private relief organizations.