Food Aid Seen as Possible Discouragement to Polish Farmers
Nov. 01, 1989
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Food aid from the West could discourage production by Poland's own farmers, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee told the Bush administration on Wednesday.
''We don't want to get into that type of situation. It could very well happen in Poland,'' Rep. Kika de la Garza said at a joint hearing on food aid by the Agriculture and Foreign Affairs committees.
''I know it has happened in several countries. ...,'' said de la Garza, D- Texas. ''Polish farmers are among the best in the world ... Poland is one crop away from self-sufficiency,'' he said.
His remarks followed close questioning of Bush administration representatives by Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, D-N.Y., who said that food aid given for political motives had discouraged farming in Egypt and El Salvador.
De la Garza said the law on food aid, passed in 1954 under President Eisenhower, was designed originally to fight communism.
''What do we do now that we're playing tennis with Mr. Gorbachev every day?'' he asked.
Alan Larson, deputy assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, said it was important to keep food aid flexible.
President Bush has promised $100 million worth to Poland. Larson said another $150 million worth is expected from the 12 countries of the European Economic Community.
''We are using food aid to fill the gaps and ease the shortages that are resulting from what we hope will be a transition of Poland from a centrally planned, communist nation to a free enterprise democratic system,'' he added.
''The flexibility to use our food aid program to support democracy, as we are doing in Poland, is one of the best features of our current law,'' Larson said.
Larson said about half U.S. food aid is now in the form of grants; the other half is paid for with money lent by the United States on easy terms.
''Today many countries that receive food aid have large debt service burdens and can no longer afford even those generous terms,'' he added.
The United States has provided $35 billion worth of food aid - over 300 million tons - over the past 35 years, said Philip L. Christenson, assistant administrator in the U.S. Agency for Economic Development.
The present program - about $1.5 billion a year - accounts for 60 percent of all food aid in the world, he added.