WASHINGTON, May 23, 2013 – Food aid proponents got a boost yesterday, when food giant Cargill released a statement in support of food aid reforms proposed in President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget. Under the revised USAID Food for Peace program, emphasis would move away from shipping American commodities overseas and toward local procurement schemes.
“Cargill believes it is time we reassess the (food aid) program to make certain it is efficient and effective in meeting the increasing needs and allow for some flexibility in the delivery of a portion of food aid assistance so that food can get more quickly to people on the brink of starvation,” the statement reads.
Cargill’s support of flexibility in food aid is not a new position, says the company’s Director of International Business Relations, Devry Boughner Vorweck. (Cargill’s 2011 Annual Report appears to corroborate that assertion). She says the current proposal – which would still reserve 55 percent of USAID funds for the purchase and shipping of American goods – gives the federal agency the “opportunity to test for flexibility in the program.”
In supporting the plan, Cargill pits itself against a great number of non-profit, agricultural, shipping and trade groups. In February, an open letter to President Obama protesting the proposed change attracted signatories like the American Soybean Association, American Maritime Officers’ Service, Land O’Lakes, National Cotton Council and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. The growing, packaging and transporting of U.S. agricultural products through the Food for Peace program “sustains a robust domestic constituency for these programs not easily replicated in alternative foreign aid programs,” they wrote.
The groups also argued that the “From the American People” bags that serve as packaging for agricultural products dramatically increase goodwill toward the country. That “can help to address the root causes of (global) instability,” they said.
But USAID believes the Administration’s changes will help feed an additional 4 million children per year. And according to agency Administrator Rajiv Shah, momentum is on the federal government’s side.
“[W]e’ve been surprised and energized by the expressions of support we’ve seen from different stakeholders across the political spectrum – from CAP to AEI and the Heritage Foundation,” he said in remarks on Tuesday.
And Shah said he is heartened by the amount of attention the issue has received. “[W]hile negotiations on food aid reforms continue, the conversations they’ve sparked and the amount of interest they’ve generated has firmly demonstrated the incredible support that exists for our nation’s continued role as the world’s humanitarian leader,” he said.
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