The U.S. Grain Arsenal: Food as a Weapon MacKenzie Weatherly
“Food is a tool. It is a weapon in the U.S. negotiating kit.” – President Jimmy Carter
The use of food aid started just after WWI • Food aid relief program played a role in U.S. efforts to influence political complexion in postwar Europe • Support Anticommunist forces • At the end of WWII food aid became a weapon to fight against communism • Used as a political tool A History of U.S. Food Aid
Public Law 480 passed in 1954 • Institutionalized food aid as an arm of U.S. imperialism • Flow of food abroad reached unprecedented proportions • By 2000 over $30 billion worth of agricultural commodities under program • Very little actually reaches the hungry in those countries • The Agricultural Trade and Development Act (PL 480)- to develop future commercial markets for U.S. grain exports and to solve of farm surpluses • Solution was to dumped excess food overseas Public Law 480
Over ¾ of PL 480 commodities have been shipped abroad under long-term, low-interest credits • These credits allow foreign governments to import U.S. agricultural products for resale in their own countries • Often the food does not reach those that need it • These commodities generate funds for the recipient government • Often the money is used to finance their military How it Works?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture worked with grain multinationals to develop commercial markets • Goal: to generate demand for U.S. products by encouraging people abroad to adopt American-style eat habits • Ex: Western Wheat Growers Association: encouraged people throughout Asia eat wheat-based products like bread instead • Many cases credits are not given unless the recipient government agrees to expand commercial imports from the United States • Ex: Dominican Republic were made conditional upon much larger cash purchases Developing New Food Markets
The U.S. has spent years building up countries dependence on imports • South Korea ranks in the top five commercial markets for U.S. products, importing around $1 billion annually • Dependent on food imports for close to half its domestic food needs • In countries like India, Bolivia, Colombia, PL 480 commodities lower food prices to the point where local famers cannot compete • Also for the U.S. to have political leverage over these countries Reliance on U.S.
PL 480 most significant in the 70s • U.S. was losing its power in in parts of Asia • Losing funding and support from Congress for economic and military aid in not only Vietnam but so supporting repressive dictatorships, ex: Chile and South Korea • Plan: Rely more heavily on the food aid program as a channel of political support • Disguised as a way to get food to needy people The Food Aid Weapon
Congress and Carter administration took interest in human rights • Congress took steps to limit the use of food aid for political purposes • However Congress large loopholes in these restrictions • Ex: Only 25% of food aid could be used for political reasons so the total program was expanded • New law making aid to human rights violators illegal • Could receive aid is food was given to the needy; this was never enforced • The application of human rights provision did nothing to alter the fundamentally political thrust of the food aid program The Human Rights Refrain
Report on PL 480 lists 8 countries that received food for purely political reasons • Mainly the countries were in the Middle East, were now a focus of the U.S. because of oil • Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Syria were not only high of the food recipient list but also received over $1.2 billion from the Economic Support Fund • Program used to channel security assistance to countries of importance to the U.S. • Egypt largest recipients in the world of credits and in 1979 received $206 million when in 74 they received zero Food and Politics