Statement for attribution from Ruth Messinger, President of AJWS, in response to agribusiness industry attacks on proposed food aid reforms

New York, NY; May 1, 2013—We are not surprised to see lobbyists for Big Ag come out with guns blazing against President Obama’s forward-looking proposal to reform U.S. food aid to poor countries. The proposal would feed at least 4 million more people without costing taxpayers an extra dime.

The special interests that oppose the proposal don’t dispute that it would be more effective. But outrageously, the only reason they have for maintaining the status quo is “pride.” The chief lobbying organization for agribusiness, the American Farm Bureau Federation, told Reuters

Commodities shipped under the Food for Peace program “currently account for less than two tenths of one percent of U.S. agricultural production and about one half of one percent of U.S. agricultural exports,” the White House estimated.”Exports via food aid are a small drop in the market,” said Veronica Nigh, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Our concern is less about decreasing an important revenue stream for U.S. agriculture. It’s more about the loss of a sense of pride.”

U.S. food aid needs to enter the 21st century. If it wants to be, the American agricultural sector can be at the forefront of these reforms, developing the next wave of higher nutritional value products that will fight child malnutrition and save lives. But if the industry wants to maintain the status quo, we must ask: Should Congress miss the opportunity to reach 4 million more hungry people because of special interest pride?’

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