Former Ag Secretary John Block –
Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.
And now for today’s commentary—
How many of you out there know anything about the U.S. Food for Peace Program? The reason it is getting some attention is because there is an effort to make a dramatic change in the Program.
We have hungry people in the world. And, because of weather or other problems over the last 50 years, the U.S. has been there to help – delivering food for the starving.
The Food Aid Program was started in 1954 under President Eisenhower. We transport in U.S. ships food from the U.S. to the hungry. This has been a popular Program because we are generous and want to help those suffering. We are providing our own food and transporting it in our own ships. That means more jobs. Over the years, we have delivered at least some of the food to non-governmental organizations – which sell the food to the people and the proceeds are used for development projects.
I have been in Moldova, met with their farm families that have a dairy collection station where they collect milk from hundreds of small farms with 1 or 2 cows each. The milk is made into cheese, yogurt, etc. That station was a by-product of our Food Aid Program. Our food aid can be more than food aid. It can result in business development. I have been in Ukraine and seen the farm service businesses that have been started because of the “monetization” of our food aid.
We are not talking about an expensive aid program. It is not a huge amount of money – less than 2 billion dollars per year. The question before us is, do we continue the Food for Peace program as it has operated over the years or do we just give the hungry countries money so they can buy their own food? – probably not from the U.S. Such a change would be easier and less expensive. In the U.S., we don’t have food surpluses like we did in years past. Why not just give the hungry countries money?
I respond with two points. With direct cash, I’m not sure that we would be able to sustain the very successful development projects. Secondly, if we give cash, how certain are we that money will be used to buy food? Given the corruption in many of the needy countries, we might guess that our food aid money could end up on someone’s pocket.
Maybe it is time for a change, but I’m just not convinced.
Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.