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U.S. Food Aid Policy To Be More Flexible, Clinton, Vilsack Say

“The Obama administration wants more flexibility in how it allocates food aid dollars to complement its new strategy to help small farmers in poor countries boost their food production,” according to a conference call Friday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Reuters reports. Vilsack and Clinton “did not rule out using U.S.-grown food aid as a tool for development projects,” but they said food aid should also be used to buy crops in and around developing countries, which would “benefit local farmers while supporting U.S.-led development projects,” the news service writes.

“This is not a circumstance where we want to continue to perpetuate the notion that this is only for the benefit of American agriculture. I think it’s a combination, it’s a partnership,” Vilsack said. He said the U.S. will not use food aid as its central tool to combat hunger, but that it will continue to be used where it is needed. “We’ve got to make farmers around the world more productive,” Vilsack said.

Instead, the focus of the the Obama administration’s $3.5 billion global food security initiative, which is being led by Clinton, is on promoting small-holder farmers’ access to seeds, fertilizer, irrigation and markets. The goal is “to engage the poorest in the growth process and to support community development,” Clinton said. “The U.S. effort is part of an agreement by the world’s richest countries to focus on food security. The international commitment has now grown to more than $22 billion to be spent over three years, Clinton said,” Reuters reports.

The article also explores how the initiative might impact the U.S. farm bill (Rampton, 10/16).

Clinton, in a statement to mark World Food Day, said that addressing global hunger is an important component of establishing global security, Agence France-Presse reports. “Food security is about economic, environmental, and national security for our individual homelands and the entire world,” according to the statement. “Fighting hunger and poverty through sustainable agricultural development, making sure that enough food is available and that people have the resources to purchase it, is a key foreign policy objective of the Obama administration,” Clinton said (10/16).

Also on Friday, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf “called on world leaders to reach a ‘broad consensus on the total and rapid elimination of hunger,'” Xinhua writes (10/16).

VOA News examines the global agriculture initiative. The article looks at the effect it could have on small farmers, the amount of money allocated and U.S. plans. It includes quotes from agriculture experts in the U.S. and Africa (Baragona, 10/19).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.