A proposal from President Bush on food aid:
As America increases its food assistance, it's really important that we transform the way that food aid is delivered. In my State of the Union address this year, I called on Congress to support a proposal to purchase up to nearly 25 percent of food assistance directly from farmers in the developing world. And the reason you do that is, in order to break the cycle of famine that we're having to deal with too often in a modern era, it's important to help build up local agriculture. I ask Congress to approve this measure as soon as possible. It's a common sense way to help deal with food emergencies around the world.
The criticism of food aid that this plan addesses is that food aid can harm farmers in the countries to whom the aid is given, by displacing demand for their products. It's a very difficult issue, and I think the Administration deserves some credit for recognizing the problem (harm to poor country farmers) and trying to come up with a solution (purchases from those farmers).
Here's a question, though. Would it perhaps be better to allocate some kind of "food credit" to allow for the purchase of food, rather than give food directly? This is not something I've thought through in detail, and it may have been discussed already by experts in the field. But it seems like a good approach to me.
For a recent article on the WTO food aid negotiations, click here.