Hearts & Minds - Information for ChangeSM

Global Poverty Nonprofit Advocates Food Aid Reform
2008 Farm Bill needs fixing to benefit American consumers and the world's poorest people

For Immediate Release

The current Farm legislation needs fixing to help end global hunger.

We could also empower millions of farmers in developing countries with much better food aid. At the same time, we could lower food prices for Americans and the world’s poorest people.

Wasteful programs call for reform
Hearts and Minds
SM, a nonprofit organization, is working to help end global hunger much more quickly. Their grassroots letter-writing campaign urges Congress to distribute food aid more fairly and responsibly.

"We can do better. Much better," says Bill Blackman, Hearts & Minds’ founder and president. "The time to speak out is now."

The nonpartisan nonprofit is asking Congress to replace often wasteful and even harmful food aid with programs that really work.

Benefits for the wealthy at your expense
As it stands now, the biggest benefits go to multi-millionaire farmers and huge agri-business corporations.

Under new limits, a married couple earning up to $2.5 million still qualifies for government farm payments, according to Ferd Hoefner, policy director of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

The current bill continues to favor the large "factory" farms rather than more environmentally friendly, local family farms.

"Faced with a mounting food crisis at home and abroad, Congress had the opportunity through the farm bill to shift funds from wasteful agricultural subsidies for large-scale farms to food aid to meet the needs of the poor, But instead, congressional leaders settled on a bill that will continue to be costly to taxpayers, undermine our rural economy, damage our trade relationships and hurt the world's poorest farmers."
     -Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, an overseas poverty and development group

Even very wealthy race horse owners still get tax breaks. All this at a time when agricultural commodity prices are at record highs, further penalizing the consumers and taxpayers who are subsidizing all this waste.

Better alternatives
Hearts & Minds supports breaking the vicious cycle of food shortages and hunger. This includes:

  • Ending wasteful, indirect aid programs. Our government buys as much as $2 billion each year of American crops. We then pay huge amounts to ship it overseas and give it to nonprofits to sell at the market rate in developing countries. The nonprofits in turn use this to fund non-food foreign aid.

    For example, shipping US corn to other continents can cost as much as $300 a ton when local farmers are trying to sell their corn for as little as $30 a ton. The practice also raises prices for American consumers, favors mostly the richest US farmers, and produces plenty of extra, wasteful greenhouse gasses. In addition, crop sales in overseas markets hurt local farmers trying to sell their grain—the very ones we are supposed to be helping. Prominent aid organizations such as Care, Catholic Relief Services and many others have criticized the practice for this reason. 
  • Phasing out price-distorting subsidies for US-produced crops including cotton, soy and grain. This helps farmers in developing nations compete fairly. It will also save American taxpayers $16 billion a year compared to the 2002 Farm Bill that is now expiring. Most of these payments go to America’s richest farmers and corporations.
  • Increasing aid for farmers around the world to learn and implement much more productive, sustainable crop growing techniques.
  • Ending protectionist trade barriers to imported food, opening our market to millions of the world’s poorest farmers.
  • Providing at least $1.2 billion a year in emergency food aid, a figure the Bush Administration now supports, to address extreme hunger and refugee situations.
  • Purchasing food aid from farmers in the nations being helped. This promotes their long-term agricultural self-sufficiency.
  • Ending subsidies for biofuel, such as ethanol from corn. This product provides only 25-38 percent more energy than what is needed to produce it. It also significantly raises food prices for Americans as well as poor people around the world.
  • Using the savings from these wasteful programs to fund the most cost-effective aid alternatives, as outlined in Hearts & Minds’ End Poverty CampaignSM platform at www.change.net/poverty/platform.htm.

"Most voters want our government to use its global influence to really help people in need," says Bill Blackman. "We shouldn't let our food aid for the next five years become hostage to domestic special interests."

The need to act
Legislation passed in May 2008 badly needs reform. Expenditures totaling $300 billion in the next five years are at stake.

"The loopholes are still there," said Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican from the farm state of Nebraska. "It's larded down with pork. It's just a bad bill."

Even the White House, often accused of favoring the wealthy and big corporations, is opposed to this wasteful bill. Jim Nussle, White House budget director, said the legislation is too expensive, uses budget gimmicks and is very weak on reform.

How citizens can help reform the Farm Bill
Information on how citizens can influence their elected representatives is online at www.change.net/poverty/farm.htm.

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online March 11, 2008, latest text changes May 20, 2008

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