New farm law to given out as cash or vouchers, USAID

A change in how the U.S. delivers food aid to war-torn countries has been signed into law as part of the farm law legislation. Instead of food aid being produced in the U.S. and sent to emerging nations, the government will purchase food where the poor live and distribute cash vouchers to them. Rajiv Shah, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said this would make it faster to get food because the majority of recipients purchase food at stores. Right now, the demand for food is critical in Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Philippines. The new laws could help feed 800,000 more refugees in these and other places.


Food aid organizations say purchasing food aid close to those who need it ". . . less expensive and more beneficial to local farmers . . ." But U.S. farmers are against buying food aid overseas. They say commoditized food from the U.S., identified as American ". . . can help to address the root causes of instability . . ." The Obama government argues purchasing food where it is needed is pragmatic in countries torn by civil strife, and add, bringing in large volumes of food is risky and can be slow to arrive.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a 2011 report discovered monetizing food aid cost the government an added $219 million in three years. The farm bill will permit a maximum of 20% to be used for food aid abroad.

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