MADRE Articles

Reshape Food Aid: A MADRE Alert

Posted on: Monday, August 6, 2007

Keywords: Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, Food Sovereignty

Reshape Food Aid:

Reach More People | Support Local Farmers

A MADRE Action Alert

The world’s problems are interconnected; therefore we need to look for holistic solutions that impact those problems at the points where they converge. The pending USDA 2007 Farm Bill is an important opportunity to do just that. The Farm Bill - set to be reauthorized by Congress this Fall - will define US policy on food and agriculture for the next five to seven years. The bill will impact health, nutrition, hunger, poverty, biodiversity, climate change, workers’ rights, migration, Indigenous rights, and women’s human rights both in the US and around the world.

MADRE’s Food for Life Campaign is pressing for a US Farm Bill that will positively impact this web of issues, for they are at the heart of our global crisis, which means they are also the site of sustainable solutions.

The Issue

Most people in the US agree that federal food aid should be geared towards alleviating hunger in emergencies while creating long-term solutions to hunger and poverty worldwide. Right now, US food aid programs fall woefully short on both counts, but we have a chance to change that.

The UN World Food Program found that it was able to obtain 75 percent more corn to feed hungry families in Africa between 2001 and 2005 by buying corn from local farmers in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia instead of from US factory farms. Yet, the current US Farm Bill requires that all federal food aid be produced in the United States and shipped abroad by US companies. As a result, transportation and overhead account for up to 65 percent of the budget for food aid. Since 2002, rising shipping costs have meant a 43 percent decline in the amount of food distributed as aid. And because food aid must be bought, packaged, and shipped in the US, it can take months to reach people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where most US food aid goes.

This system also undermines long-term solutions to world hunger by dumping US-grown food on countries where local farmers could be providing comparable resources. Instead of using US tax dollars to buy food exclusively from corporate-owned US farms that already receive billions in government subsidies, food aid should be purchased from local farmers in the Global South.

MADRE’s Call

MADRE supports a proposal for the new Farm Bill that would allow 25 percent of emergency resources to be spent on food grown by people in the country or region where aid is needed, rather than by large-scale US factory farms. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives dropped this provision from its version of the Farm Bill. But now the Senate is scheduled to debate the bill. Make sure that your Senators hear from you and your friends about the importance of distributing US food aid efficiently and equitably.

Call your US Senators and tell them:

  • Your name and address (to confirm that they represent you in Congress).
  • The Senate should support a provision to allow up to $300 million of food to be bought near the places in crises during emergency food distributions.
  • Food aid should aim to meet urgent needs and promote long-term solutions to world hunger.
  • Food aid should not be driven by the interests of US agribusiness and shipping companies.

To find the phone number for your Senators, use this tool or call the Senate switchboard at 202.224.3121.

Please forward this action alert on to friends in and outside of your state – together we can make real change happen.

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Kat Noel, Website & Media Coordinator
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