Americans have always prided themselves as being generous in their attempts to meet the needs of the hungry in Third World nations. After World War II the United States extended its wealth to help rebuild Europe and Japan. In the 50’s a new program, geared to meet the needs of hungry people throughout the world, was established as “Food for Peace”. The American policy grew out of the belief that hungry people often are disruptive people, people ready to engage in political upheaval. Well fed people have a chance to build countries in peace and develop their own national prosperity. On the face of it “Food for Peace” appears to be an American Program we can rely upon to carry out our altruistic intentions. Or is it?
The Bush Plan. Recently President Bush has recirculated a plan, suggested several years ago, whereby some of the American funding designated to purchase food for hungry people would have to be spent on food supplies produced close to the areas where the need exists. Under current provisions all of the food sent to needy people is purchased solely from American food producers and then shipped to the areas in need.
The Bush plan suggests that some of that purchasing could be spread out, instead of allowing American food producers to monopolize the market. To President Bush there is good sense in buying food in countries that are proximate to the area of need. Enough sense in fact to cause him to speak in favor of such a program despite the interesting creation of friends and foes this speech fomented.
For the Bush Plan It is not surprising that this rethinking of our Food for Peace Program has brought support from odd political stalwarts and created some interesting bedfellows. Liberal Democrats can make some definite “brownie points” with President Bush by hopping on this particular bandwagon. For many Democrats the plan has more positives than negatives. Buying food on the other side of the world to feed people on the other side of the world is flat out good logistics. Food purchased is likely to be more of the consistency that local people are accustomed to eating. Food can be moved quickly and efficiently from the land of its origin to the hungry people not far away. Lives can be saved.
Democrats interested in the humanitarian aspects of Food for Peace welcome President Bush’s idea to put some of the allocated money into the hands of food producers in nations other than our own. On the other hand. Democrats recognize that in the United States agriculture is a business, and people support their families on the basis of that business. President Bush’s plan only asks that a per centage of total spending be sent overseas. Much of the sales profit will continue to remain in the U. S. It is a plan that for Democrats is a reasonable and sensible compromise.
Also backing the Bush suggestion are members of international aid organizations whose primary interest is in getting food in the hands of the hungry as quickly as possible. Empowering foreign agriculture by large scale purchases is also a welcomed shift of American international aid policies.
Against the Bush Plan. As strange as it may seem to have liberal Democrats scrambling to sign on with the Bush concept, it is equally odd to listen to the protestations of Republicans against the plan. The United States is no longer a nation of small local farms. Agriculture in the U. S. is big business, with big profits to be made. Those in charge of large food producing conglomerates are happy to get food to hungry people on the other side of the world, especially if that food also represents agricultural sales and profits for their companies. They become considerably less supportive of programs that are effectively going to give some of those sales to foreign agricultural concerns.
Among the owners of large American Food Producers are many traditional Bush supporters. They are companies and individuals who have supported the Republican Party for generations with their money and with their votes. Lining up against the President is not a familiar position for them but it is likely they will pull no punches in trying to bring Bush back to a more traditional Republican position.
Some very interesting and borderline amusing alliances are being formed in response to the new initiative from President Bush with regard to “Food for Peace”. But when human lives possibly hang in the balance the administration of Food for Peace and our response to international hunger dwarf all political concerns.