When the US Department of Agriculture announced a plan to ship surplus US peanuts to Haiti to feed malnourished children, there was an immediate and prolonged backlash. From Haitian farmers to economists to human rights groups in the US, many spoke out urging the USDA to reconsider, especially given the devastating impact US shipments of rice had on Haiti’s rice market and farmers. While the plan may sound generous on the surface, the USDA doesn’t seem to have done any market analysis or sought to make this plan sustainable without interfering with Haitian peanut farmers’ livelihoods.
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Raymond C. Offenheiser, The Hill
May 11, 2016
It’s a classic case of good intentions gone bad. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is planning to dump 500 metric tons of packaged, dry-roasted peanuts on Haiti as part of its “Stocks for Food” program, which transfers surplus farm commodities acquired by the government through domestic farm subsidies.
Thanks to the Farm Bill, the US is sitting on 16,000 metric tons of peanuts as American growers forfeited their crop, rather than pay federal loans that are used to finance production and storage costs.
The USDA is trying to put these peanuts to good use, hoping that shipping them to Haiti will feed 140,000 malnourished school children. Indeed, Haiti is one of the most food-insecure places on earth, with one in every four Haitian preschool children being stunted by chronic malnutrition. And yet civil society groups and farmer organizations in Haiti and the US are sounding the alarm: dumping these peanuts in Haiti does not present a lasting solution to feeding school children and could even do some serious damage to the country’s growing peanut crop.
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