Hungry Children, Well-Fed Shipping Companies

Poverty, Threats

Hungry Children, Well-Fed Shipping Companies

Rent-seeking is an ancient and well-polished political art, practiced today by expert lobbyists who capture surpluses for their clients, often at the expense of the weakest and poorest members of society. Few incidences of successful rent-seeking do as much harm while delivering such modest benefits to the practitioners than the groups taking advantage of the strings attached by Congress to the emergency international food-aid program, now called the Food for Peace initiative, managed by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Farm interest groups, shipping companies and seamen’s unions long ago persuaded legislators to impose two costly constraints on the program requiring almost all food for overseas aid be sourced in the United States and that most of it be transported on American- flagged vessels with American crews. The consequence: shipments are delayed by as much as 4 months because of these constraints, and every year as many as 8 million of the most desperately poor people in the world lose access to some aid because the FFP budget is eaten up by shipping costs.

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