Food for Peace is excellent program, Kansan says

Recently “The Tennessean” published a news article about you (Sens. Corker and Coons and American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall) and your desire to improve the way in which Food Aid from the United States is delivered to needy countries, specifically in the Food for Peace program. I began reading the article and was elated to find that men of your stature were actually reaching across the aisle to find agreement and then going even one step further, actually including farmers in the appeal.

You do realize that if your actions end up having a positive effect you will take your place in history with famous names such as Madison, Hoover, Eisenhower, Kennedy, McGovern and Dole. They too were Democrats and Republicans that reached across the aisle and did end up with a positive result. We need to build on that positive program called Food for Peace. I believe the U.S. Wheat Food Aid Working Group would be willing to assist in making the programs better.

We need to stress that it is much harder to create a program based around actual commodities than it is to provide cash. The rewards, however, are much greater. As John F. Kennedy stated, “Food is strength, food is peace and food is freedom.” Notice there was no mention of giving cash in place of food.

As I read further into the article I noticed that you gentlemen were promoting the idea of using cash in war-torn or hunger-stressed territories rather than food because of the dangers in going there. Why would it be less dangerous to carry a bag of money into those areas than a bag of flour? It appears if it is too dangerous, it is in fact too dangerous for any one. You also inferred at times commodities purchased with the cash could be non-U.S. commodities. This would hurt U.S. jobs.

Correct me if I am wrong, I believe the Senate Foreign Relations Committee does have access currently to cash donations for emergency humanitarian assistance. Sen. Bob Corker, you are chairman of that committee, and Sen. Chris Coons, you are a member of that committee. I am sure when we as a group delve into making the Food for Peace work better we will learn that there probably is no need to add more cash programs.

Later in the article I tried to recollect if Zippy Duvall or anyone from Farm Bureau had solicited me for input about cash versus food in a Food Aid Program. If they had, I definitely would have replied, “Keep the food in Food Aid.” After all, it is called a Food Aid Program, not a Cash Aid Program. I have not spoken to any farmer in favor of donating cash over food. In reading this, I was insulted that Duval was using farmers as a selling point for something we don’t want. In fact, it is not a farmer program, it is a U.S. citizen program. Ask the citizens of the United States.

If we are going to make positive changes in Food for Peace and if you gentlemen are actually serious about doing so, we need to include everyone. By that I mean commodity groups, maritime, railroads, non-governmental organizations and, of course, USAID and USDA.

I am somewhat familiar with the Food for Progress Program, not so much with Food for Peace. The Food for Progress could do much more, such as taking care of those countries such as you mentioned—Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria, if it had no transportation cap and if those countries fit within the mission of Food For Progress.

There is a novel idea floating around the countryside, that perhaps USDA and USAID could work together to solve many of the hunger situations. We could call it something like “reaching across the aisle.”

There are other ways to promote more programs without increasing cost or cash. Whether we want to admit it or not, programs are costlier when goods must be shipped via U.S. flagged ships, U.S. flagged barges, or even U.S. flagged railroads for that matter. I am sure some adjustments in freight rates can be made so that we don’t lose commodities (freight) to cash.

We all agree, or if not now, eventually, that food is the choice over cash. We all need to work to make commodities work better than cash and I am confident that given the chance we will work together. Too many U.S. jobs are at stake if we don’t succeed. Under the direction of Corker-Coons “Food for Peace” will once again promote “Food.”

Editor’s Note:  Ron Suppes farms in Lane and Scott Kansas counties and serves on several state and national boards. Suppes sent this letter to Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee; Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware; and American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall Feb. 19.