During the holiday season, our thoughts often turn toward helping the less fortunate. The United States provides millions of tons of food each year to feed starving and hungry people around the world. Yet the question remains, how closely do commodity prices affect the amount of food aid provided? There are many types of food aid: emergency, humanitarian and developmental, and there is a link between prices and supply according to USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins. He says that when prices are high, the supply available for food aid shrinks. However, there are ways USDA augments food aid when prices are high.
"We have commodities set aside that can be drawn upon if needed, the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust is an example," Collins says. "We also have asked for supplemental appropriations; in fact we've done that recently as we experience high prices right now. The President decides this is critical that we have to provide this assistance, so we ask for an additional appropriation over and above what we would have gotten in our normal appropriation, to provide food aid."