Proposed food aid changes feed controversy

April 4, 2013 at 2:54 PM

WASHINGTON, April 4 (UPI) -- The Obama administration is proposing to buy food from farmers in developing countries in order to more rapidly provide humanitarian aid to devastated areas.

The possible change is being challenged by agricultural and shipping trade groups, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The United States currently buys grain and other crops from U.S. farmers and ships the aid on American-flagged ships, a process that means the requested aid sometimes does not arrive at its destination for months.

Buying food on the international market would allow the aid to arrive much sooner.

The proposal would also stop the "monetization" of U.S. grains. The government ships grains to international non-profit organizations, which sell the grain to fund their projects. The administration says this method lowers the price local farmers can get for their own crops.

More than 60 organizations have written letters in support of the current program, on which the United States spends about $1.4 billion a year.

Growing and shipping the food from the United States "sustains a robust domestic constituency for these programs not easily replicated in foreign aid programs," they wrote in a letter to Congress and the Obama administration.

Shippers contend hundreds of jobs would be lost because existing law requires 75 percent of U.S. food aid to be transported on American-flagged ships.

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