Food aid reformers get key support ahead of Farm Bill vote

Twenty-one senators wrote to Obama opposing the overhaul when rumors first emerged that he would endorse food aid reform in this year's budget blueprint. Former President Bush also called for reforming the nation's food aid system.

“American agriculture is one of the few U.S. business sectors to produce a trade surplus, exporting $108 billion in farm goods in 2010,” said the letter from the Agriculture and Appropriations panel members. “During this time of economic distress, we should maintain support for the areas of our economy that are growing.”

Glickman dismissed those arguments on Wednesday. He said food aid now amounts to only about 0.5 percent of U.S. farm income and said a more flexible system would save taxpayer money and help foreign countries develop into importers of U.S. food.

“My judgment is, over the long term, this is a big plus for American agriculture,” Glickman said. “Because it will create the opportunity for countries to become more self-sufficient and buy more things from us.”

He said South Korea, for example, used to be a “huge recipient of U.S. food aid” but is now America's sixth largest trading partner.

Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) however raised concerns about the risk of rising local commodity prices if the government replaces food aid with cash vouchers to buy local food and with the difficulty of ensuring that the American people can continue to get credit in the eyes of the people getting the aid. 

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