The Bush administration wants to start buying some of the more than $1 billion in food commodities for its Food for Peace program in foreign countries, closer to where it's needed. The proposal threatens an alliance between agri-business and humanitarian organizations.
The demand for emergency shipments of food keeps increasing around the world; just last month, Ethiopia issued a call for 60,000 tons of donated grain.
The United States is, by far, the world's largest food donor. And almost all of its donations are purchased from U.S. producers.
A few aid organizations, including Oxfam and Catholic Relief Services, have decided to support using some food aid money for local purchases. Other humanitarian groups, such as World Vision, are against any substantial change in the program.
The Bush administration is trying again this year. It's asking Congress for permission to use up to a quarter of the Food for Peace budget to buy food from foreign farmers.
But to legislators like Colin Peterson (D-MN), who is chairman of the Agriculture committee in the House of Representatives, the aid programs exist to send American food abroad — not American money. And he intends to keep it that way.