August 18, 2007

the US Agriculture Policy

CARE Turns Down Federal Funds for Food Aid

An interesting development, and CARE risks much with it. They traditionally employed monetised food aid but have been debating the damage such a system facilitates to the markets (people) which they are specifically trying to help. Essentially, subsidised US farm products (already controversial by its own right) are shipped from the US on American lines, sold by NGOs, the profits of which are used to fund their aid operations. Because aid organisations are not commodities experts, that profit margin is also impacted.

This event is interesting on many levels. It highlights the incredible role of food aid in politics, as leverage, as a weapon, to control the markets. Aid is no longer tied as a matter of official procedure but in practice it's a different story.

Additionally, phasing this scheme out of CARE operations sends a clear message about the US agricultural policy. You Are What You Grow is an interesting look at the farm bill on a personal level. Why is there a growing obesity epidemic, and why is it largely among the poor? The grocery store, we all know, is a sophisticatedly designed space, the result of extensive market studies and specialised consumer research. Nutrient-poor products are clustered in the centre of the store; junk food and sodas are cheaper because they're the processed outputs of farm subsidies. Globally, the farm bill impacts public health, the environment, immigration, poverty in the developing world and it fuels damaging agribusiness practices.

The farm bill is renewed every five years. It is now in Congress being reviewed and revised, and it goes to the floor in September 2007.

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