“The Real Price of Foreign Food Aid”
Human Rights and Ethics
America's food assistance programs began in 1812 when President James Madison sent emergency aid to earthquake victims in Venezuela. This was the United States’ first foreign food aid initiative that successfully supplanted these victims need for food. Years later, Herbert Hoover led a feeding program in Russia during the 1920's, in addition to famine relief programs during World War I and World War II in Europe. These programs established the U.S. as an aid providing society. In 1949, the United States launched the ‘Marshall Plan’, which brought food to many African countries in need of aid. The ‘Marshall plan’ was unlike previous plans enacted by the U.S., and its creation changed the spirit and nature of foreign food aid as well as having had a detrimental effect on the African countries receiving aid from the program. U.S. politics and policies dealing with foreign food aid have had detrimental economic, cultural, and social effects on African nations receiving aid. In the late 1940s ‘Marshall Plan’ administrators “poured over $13 billion worth of financial and food aid into Africa” (2). This $13 billion dollars served as an incentive for U.S. farmers to up their production level and hopefully secure a sizeable amount of the subsidies that the government was offering. It was only after the ‘Marshall plan’ that U.S. foreign food aid became a profit seeking business. Farmers would overproduce crops in an attempt to sell it to the U.S. government. This overproduction was a direct result of the subsidies provided for these American farmers. This plan was somewhat beneficial for the recipient nations because they received aid, but arguably detrimental to the spirit of foreign food aid. It also forces us, as citizens of the world, to really question how America’s well-intentioned foreign aid program spawned into a self-serving relationship between humanitarian aid and American politics. One of the most detrimental policies that had the worst affect on African societies receiving aid is the ‘Point Four Program.’ President Truman helped to enact and pass the ‘Point Four program’ in which he declared would be "a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of undeveloped areas.” (3) This theory, which embodied the surface of the Marshall plan, resonated with future presidents and became the foundation for the ‘Food for Peace Program’. The ‘Food for Peace’ Program “Public Law (PL 480)” was signed into law as the Agricultural Trade Development Act by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 10, 1954. Eisenhower said that the purpose of the legislation was to “lay the basis for a permanent expansion of our exports of agricultural products with lasting benefits to ourselves and peoples of other lands.” (3) This quote by the President solidified the “spirit” of foreign food aid as profit seeking. The president talks of ‘permanent expansion’, which implies the intention of the program to be a long-term solution. He also goes on to say that the “exports of our agricultural products will have lasting benefits to ourselves and peoples of other lands.” This suggests that the president is aware that foreign food aid has become a profit seeking institution, and suggests that this notion is actually beneficial to both recipient and donor nations. However, in somewhat difficult economic times for the U.S. farmer this solution to export overproduced crops seemed to be an economic win and public relations win for the U.S. Foreign food aid was originally created to help countries that had experienced hardships and were in need of a short-term solution. The creation of foreign food aid as a profit seeking business completely destroyed this notion and proved to be an economic weapon against countries in Africa receiving aid. “Analysts have concluded that the...
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