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U.S. Food Aid In Need Of Reform To Improve Efficiency, Cost Effectiveness

Washington Post: How to get more out of the dollars Americans spend helping the world’s hungry
Editorial Board

“…Title II of the Food for Peace Act, the main source of emergency food aid, requires the United States to supply international famine relief programs with American-grown products and to ship at least half of the materiel on U.S.-flagged vessels. Meanwhile, at least 15 percent of the goods must be ‘monetized’ once they arrive at their destination — that is, resold on local markets by nongovernmental organizations, to fund development projects. … [I]t makes the program less efficient than it might be: The set-aside for U.S.-flagged vessels inflates transportation costs; the buy-American rule for commodities prevents purchases from cheaper producers closer to the famine zones, whose productive efforts are additionally undercut by ‘monetization.’ … Food aid reform has been a bipartisan cause backed by each of the past two presidents and many members of Congress. However, the powerful lobbies that benefit from the status quo have prevented it. … [I]t would take a major push from the White House to achieve even incremental change. If he’s really interested in improving the cost-effectiveness of aid, as opposed to slashing it as an expression of ideology, President Trump would spend some of his political capital on the cause. Of course, that would also require him to depart from the simplistic ‘buy American’ mind-set he has repeatedly expressed — and whose counterproductive effects the U.S. food aid program epitomizes” (4/22).

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