July 1, 2009
This week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced plans to drastically change the nation’s food aid policy. As Reuters reported, he said the U.S. will focus more resources on helping developing countries increase their agricultural capacity, as opposed to relying on emergency food aid grown on U.S. soil.
“‘It is a more comprehensive, holistic view of food security that focuses on the notion that we want to make food more available, we want to make it accessible and we want to make sure that it is properly used,” Vilsack said in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “‘If we can help countries become more productive themselves then they will be in a better position to feed their own people,’ he said.”
According to the Reuters article:
The United States is the world’s largest donor of emergency food aid — mainly crops grown by American farmers — but spends 20 times as much on food aid to Africa as it spends on programs that could boost African food production, according to research by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. U.S. annual spending on African farming projects topped $400 million in the 1980s, but by 2006 had dwindled to just $60 million, the council has said.
Vilsack said the United States wants to invest in roads and other infrastructure projects in foreign countries to ensure that food is accessible to everyone who needs it. Developing nations may also be able to produce more food for trade, helping to improve the global economy, he said.
President Barack Obama has said his administration will ask Congress to double funding for agricultural development aid to $1 billion by 2010.
Specific details on how food aid funding might change are not available at this time, however this policy shift seems to fall in line with a pilot program authorized under the 2008 farm bill. The Local and Regional Procurement Project, is a USDA-led effort to increase local responses to food emergencies in developing countries, and complement food aid programs.