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US plan for EU-style food aid policy

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Friday, 26 April 2013

US plan for EU-style food aid policy

The Obama administration is proposing a major overhaul of food aid that would for the first time put America’s overseas policy in line with European practices of providing cash and other alternatives to bulk shipments.
The White House plan, which is included in the 2014 budget proposal, marks a significant shift in US policy. At the moment “we have a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing acute humanitarian crises … a system that was designed in the 1950s and has largely remained based on 1950s policies,” said Muñoz, the senior policy advisor for agriculture and food security at Oxfam’s Washington office.
But if approved, it would mark the first time that Washington moves away from buying surplus food from American farmers and shipping it to developing countries or disaster zones. The proposal would put the Americans in line with the EU and more recently Canada to use cash transfers and vouchers in times of food insecurity.
The US is also focusing more on investing in child nutritional support and education in foreign aid policies, in line with new European Commission proposals.
Pressed by Britain, European countries agreed in the 1990s to move towards a food aid system based on regional food procurement through cash transfers and vouchers rather than bulk food deliveries.
Though the change has not replaced the need for food donations - especially during disasters or in times of humanitarian crisis - the approach is seen as a way to boost local production while providing fresher, more nutrition-rich foods to needy communities.
Oxfam and other organisations have long contended that the US programme hurt smallholder farms in recipient nations by deflating prices by “dumping” surplus commodities.
Cash transfers are seen as a development tool because local sourcing of food creates markets for farmers and jobs in distribution.

Source: Euractiv