Letters To The Editor


July 17, 2005

Food aid seeks to help hungry, not boost trade

The Sun's editorial "Trade trumps aid" (July 10) reflects a common misconception about how food aid to the developing world works.

Indeed, trade subsidies are harmful to farmers in the developing world, distorting local markets by flooding them with cheap commodities. And it is true that the U.S. government does send a small amount of surplus food as a reward to friendly governments. But this has nothing to do with the more than $1 billion in food aid that the United States sends each year, through aid agencies such as Catholic Relief Services and CARE, to help the poorest of the poor survive famine, endure war or recover from disasters.

In a nutshell, food aid is not trade. The food aid we send to places such as Darfur, Sudan, or the tsunami-affected countries in Asia does not come from surpluses that are the result of agricultural subsidies.

Food aid is purchased on the open market with funds appropriated in the federal budget by Congress. It is not a price-support mechanism.

The goal of food aid programs is to feed hungry people and help them attain self-sufficiency and food security. The goal is not to develop foreign markets for U.S. products.

The fact is that when agencies such as CRS deliver food, we deliver it in countries that are classified by the United Nations as underdeveloped and food insecure.

The food is delivered to people who are desperately poor and often depend on this aid for survival.

The people we serve aren't yet part of the global market.

And limited past experience indicates that buying food locally in or near famine-affected areas can drive up prices, pushing more people into crisis.

Purchasing large quantities of food in rural settings with poor roads and nonexistent warehousing can also be slow and prohibitively costly.

Ken Hackett


The writer is the president of Catholic Relief Services.

Bill to cut subsidies is a win-win situation

The Sun's editorial "Trade trumps aid" (July 10) hit the nail on the head - indeed, trade has the potential to lift millions out of poverty around the world.

The good news is that recent developments indicate that there is bipartisan support for cuts to U.S. farm subsidies, which would benefit the rural poor from West Africa to America's heartland.

Recognizing the inequity of the current farm policy, Sens. Charles E. Grassley, Byron L. Dorgan and Chuck Hagel have introduced the Rural America Preservation Act of 2005, which would lower the limit on farm subsidy payments.

Matching legislation has been proposed in the House of Representatives.

These proposals fall in line with the president's own requests and calls to cut from the agriculture budget.

This legislation represents a win-win situation: Our tax money would be used more efficiently, a level playing field for farmers in developing countries would be created and government subsidies would be redirected into the hands of those who need them here at home - family farmers.

Charity does begin at home - by speaking out for what is right.

Jayne Thomisee


The writer is a campaign coordinator for the National Peace Corps Association.

Hoping it means end of Karl Rove's career

How Machiavellian of Karl Rove. But did the end of retaliating against a man who expressed doubts about the Bush administration's erroneous assertions on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction justify his apparent means - risking the life of a foot soldier in the war on terror by outing her as a covert CIA agent ("President says he won't prejudge Rove," July 14)?

If the charges about the leak are true, I hope this means the end of Mr. Rove, politically.

D. J. Paugh


Representation isn't court's role

It is amazing that many people who should know better seem to misunderstand the role of the Supreme Court.

For instance, in "Supreme Court should include a diversity seat" (Opinion Commentary, July 12), Sherrilyn A. Ifill laments that Justice Clarence Thomas does not represent the views of most blacks.

However, it is not the role of the Supreme Court to "represent" anyone in particular. That function is fulfilled by our elected representatives and senators.

The role of the Supreme Court is to judge the constitutionality of laws passed by the legislatures.

Ultimately, it should make little difference what the personal views of justices are on social issues as long as they judge strictly on the basis of the Constitution.

Gerald C. Rose


Let idle workers go home earlier

Here's a thought: If workers waste time because they lack work to do, how about shortening the work day ("Poll exposes workers' idle secret," July 13)?

By so doing, we would allow the American workplace to realize one of the promises of the industrial and technological revolutions and ease the pain of increased monotony, widespread layoffs, loss of job security and a host of other penalties workers have paid over the years while corporations realize larger and larger profits.

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