Ship carrying US food aid

Chris Barrett (AEM, ECON) was quoted about U.S. food aid policies in NPR's The Salt blog.  

When Food Aid Goes Local, Some Say It Works Better

March 7, 2012

Ship carrying US food aid

Chris Barrett (AEM, ECON) was quoted about U.S. food aid policies in NPR's The Salt blog. The following is an excerpt:

When Food Aid Goes Local, Some Say It Works Better

By Dan Charles | March 7, 2012 – 05:55 pm

Chris BarrettChris Barrett, ACSF Associate Director - Economic Development

There’s finally some careful research that goes a long way toward resolving one of the hot debates over food aid — whether it’s better to ship bags of rice and corn from the United States, or to buy food close to where it’s needed. Emergency food supplies will be needed this summer, for instance, in the Sahel region of Africa.

The research — available as a collection of unpublished working papers — was led by Christopher Barrett, an economist at Cornell who has criticized U.S. food aid policies in the past. He found that most of the time, it’s better to buy food close to where it’s needed. But not always. And some of the reasons may surprise you.

Right now, most American food aid has to be acquired here in the U.S. and shipped to wherever it is needed. (Until 2008, all of it was.) American farmers like this rule; they say it increases demand for their product.

But critics have condemned the “buy America” policy, saying that it wastes money and time. If people in Niger need food now, they say, it would be much quicker and cheaper to buy that food in West Africa, where it is already available. This is called “local purchase,” and the European Union has adopted it as standard practice for all food aid… (read more)