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April 25, 2013

Who Gets Paid to Grow Food for People in Need?

Watch USAID Rethinks Who Gets Paid to Grow Food for Countries on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

American food aid assists the world’s most vulnerable populations such as Syrian refugees, Haitian earthquake survivors or Pakistani flood victims. The budget for what’s known as Food for Peace is $1.5 billion dollars a year, managed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, and the Agriculture Department. The idea came from President Eisenhower nearly 60 years ago.

“It is to explore anew with other surplus-producing nations all practical means of utilizing the various agricultural surpluses of each in the interests of reinforcing peace and well-being of free peoples throughout the world, in short, using food for peace,” remarked President Eisenhower.

Until now, the commodities have been bought from U.S. farmers and shipped overseas on U.S. vessels, to be donated to local governments and non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.

But President Obama’s new AID budget proposal calls for scaling back that system known as monetization. Instead, nearly half the money would be used to buy local bulk food in or near the countries that need it.

USAID administrator, Rajiv Shah, supports the measure and made the case for buying local at a U.S. Senate hearing, “A core part of our thinking is by using and partnering with those who represent real, local solutions, we can bring the cost of our work down and create the kind of institutional strength that can sustain these efforts and activities after American aid and assistance goes away.”

As rumors of the proposed change surfaced in February, U.S. farmers, food and shipping companies and some NGOs objected in letters to lawmakers. And a bipartisan group of 21 senators from agricultural states protested in a letter to President Obama. The final decision rests with the relevant committees in Congress.

Warm up questions

1. What happens in a country when people can’t afford to buy food?

2. What kind of aid does the United States give to poorer countries?

3. Who receives food aid from the United States?

Discussion questions

1. What did you find most interesting about this video?

2. How should the U.S. government decide who to give food to and how much?

3. What do you think of President Obama’s shift away from shipping American-grown food to countries in need?  Who stands to gain from this policy and who stands to lose?

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