Reforming Food Aid


When American officials are forced to defend the relatively stingy portion of the federal budget that goes to international aid, they often point to the country’s large military expenditures in humanitarian missions. (Of course this rang a little less hollow before all “peacekeeping” efforts turned to Iraq.) But they rarely mention food aid, where the U.S., which contributes 56 percent of the world’s total, far outstrips all other nations. And, according to a recently published report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, perhaps that’s for good reason. According to the report, the U.S. approach to food aid, while adequate at stemming famine in targeted emergencies, does far more harm than good in the long run. And there’s a sadly predictable cause: the programs are set up just as much to help U.S. business as they are to prevent starvation.

The vast majority of government funds allotted to purchase food aid must be spent on American producers. So even if another country—perhaps one closer to the famine site— can produce cheaper food, their products are locked out. Local producers in poorer countries have less incentive to grow sustenance crops, and instead produce crops for export that are priced beyond the reach of domestic markets. It’s a policy that produces subsistence and dependence rather than food independence. The report has a few suggestions that might clear up the mess—but as long as the programs are run as a backdoor subsidy program to U.S. farmers, change will be a tough row to hoe.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.