Published on
the Las Vegas Sun

Food Without Borders

Bush administration policy contributes to decline in aid to struggling nations


The World Food Program, which ships food to areas hit by disasters, sent out an emergency call for donations this week because it is running out of food for such aid.

Rising global food prices and increases in transportation costs, along with inefficient management by some aid organizations, figure significantly in the shortfall, USA Today reported Monday.

But reductions in U.S. shipments of food also play a major role. U.S. food donations have dropped 43 percent since 2002, according to a 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

And a major reason for that decline is the Bush administration's changes to the rules that apply to food aid from the United States, the GAO says.

The Bush administration now requires that all U.S. donations to the World Food Program be in food, rather than money, and that the donated food must be grown in the United States.

This prevents the United States from buying some of the donated food from nations that are closer to the regions to which the aid is to be delivered. Harry Edwards, a spokesman for the U.S. Agency for International Development, told USA Today that buying even some of the food from other countries could save the United States 25 percent in shipping costs alone.

The Senate recently passed legislation that would allow some third-party purchases, but a House version of the measure does not include such a provision.

Granted, there are many factors contributing to the decline in aid over which the United States has little control. But the Bush administration's policy has prevented U.S. officials from being able to purchase food in a way that would make more of it available to people who need it.

Congress should exhibit the economic wisdom that the Bush administration apparently is unable to muster and change the law to allow the United States to purchase some of this donated food from areas that are closer to the countries that so desperately need it.

© Las Vegas Sun, 2008

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