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U.S. aid policies help business, delay food aid to starving: Bloomberg

Just in time for the Christmas season, Bloomberg News reports U.S. food business lobbyists are inadvertently delaying food shipments to poor countries by insisting U.S. firms get paid for every step of the aid process. Result: "dead children." Also, Canadian and Ukrainian fertilizer companies are accused of colluding to force food and farming costs higher.

"The bag of green peas, stamped "USAID From the American People," took more than six months to reach Haylar Ayako" in southern Ethiopia, writes Bloomberg reporter Alan Bjerga in this story. "For seven of his grandchildren, that was a lifetime. They died as the peas journeyed from North Dakota to southern Ethiopia.

"During that time, the American growers, processors and transporters that profit from aid shipments were fighting off a proposal before Congress to speed deliveries by buying more from foreign producers near trouble spots. As a result of legal mandates to buy U.S. goods, the world's most generous food relief program wasn't fast or flexible enough to feed the starving in Ethiopia...

"U.S. farm and shipping lobbyists have stifled efforts to simplify aid deliveries, leaving Africans to starve when they might have been saved, said Andrew Natsios, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington who led USAID, the Agency for International Development, from 2001 to 2006. 'No one can take the high moral ground against it, so they hide behind closed doors and kill it,' he said. 'It's all done behind the scenes.'...Efforts to protect American shareholders can have unintended consequences.

"After approving $2.62 billion of food aid in June, Congress has since authorized 267 times that much in the $700 billion financial system bailout and begun debate on requests from U.S. automakers for billions more."

Bloomberg also maps how international collusion may be driving up food costs. Story here.