There are many, many problems with the House farm bill being debated this week but there are two amendments that would make significant improvements. The first (#55 in this list) is a version of the Royce-Bass Food Aid Reform Act that would provide authorization to untie up to 45 percent of the emergency food aid budget and allow the US Agency for International Development to provide assistance in whatever form—food purchased in the US or locally, vouchers, or cash transfers—would help the most people the quickest.
CGD Policy Blogs
The Obama administration’s FY14 budget request included a food aid reform proposal that the administration estimated would allow US food aid to reach an addition 2-4 million people per year—for roughly what the United States spends now. My colleagues Kim Elliott and Will McKitterick have a new brief out that argues this is a conservative estimate. Their calculations suggest that the reforms would help at least 4 million more people, and maybe as many as 10 million for the same amount of money as under the current inefficient system.
Owen Barder is sceptical about a proposed new public-private partnership to tackle hunger.
Today, the World Bank launched a new report, "Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness." The report argues that agriculture and agribusiness should be at the top of the development and business agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Bank is right to emphasize this issue--of the $25 billion of food that African countries import annually, only $1 billion comes from other African countries. The report offers a clear and well-researched exposition of the state and prospects of African agribusiness. It is broad in scope, encompassing agricultural production and upstream input markets as well as supply chains and agro-processing.
Washington is abuzz with rumors that the White House budget will include a far-reaching reform of US food aid that moves away from in-kind food aid transported on American ships. Even though no details are available, the plan faces considerable resistance from agricultural and maritime interests that profit from the current system. But current practices are inefficient, costly, and slow and most development advocates support the administration’s desire to shake things up.
US government promotion of the ethanol industry is an important element in the recent spikes in corn (and other food) prices, but rising oil and gasoline prices are also key contributors. This is the punch line of a recent presentation I gave on US biofuel policy, and a point that can be clearly illustrated in just two charts: the first chart provides a crude summary of key elements of US biofuels policy; the second chart shows trends in ethanol production, corn prices, and crude oil prices all starting to move together in the mid-2000s.
“No superpower that claims to possess the moral high ground can afford to relinquish its leadership in addressing global disease, hunger, and ignorance,” said former US senator Richard Lugar. “Our moral identity is an essential source of national power… We diminish ourselves and our national reputation if we turn our backs on the obvious plight of hundreds of millions of people who are living on less than a dollar a day and facing severe risk from hunger and disease.”
When you opt to buy fair trade certified coffee at the grocery store instead of uncertified, how much good are you doing? My guest on this week’s Wonkcast, Kimberly Ann Elliott, draws on her recent policy paper, Is My Fair Trade Coffee Really Fair? Trends and Challenges in Fair Trade Certification, to tell me why the answer may be more complicated than you’d think.
Economists, development and otherwise, often assume that people given the right information will make informed decisions in their own best interest. Not! Just like the rest of us, the poor people targeted by development programs sometimes lack self-control and fail to take actions that would benefit them in the long run, even when they understand the potential benefits.