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It doesn’t care for strings on U.S. aid

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Kai Ryssdal: Donations to charity are pretty tough to come by, so one has to wonder why one of the world’s biggest charitable organizations would start turning down aid from the U.S. government.

CARE gets about $45 million a year from Washington. But the group has decided the strings attached to its food aid package are hurting developing countries. The decision puts a spotlight on growing criticism of federal funding for hunger relief, and it comes just as Congress is negotiating a five-year farm bill.

Marketplace’s John Dimsdale reports now from Washington.

John Dimsdale: Here’s how the system works: the government buys surplus food from American farmers and ships it to charitable organizations in needy countries. The charities sell the food locally, and raise about $180 million a year.

But the biggest participant, CARE, says the food imports depress local prices. Helene Gayle is the president of CARE:

Helene Gayle: In the long run, it wasn’t in the best interest, either of solving the problem of hunger or the most efficient way to raise cash to fund poverty-fighting programs.

Gayle hopes foundations, corporations and individuals will make up for the lost income. She wants the U.S. to consider other ways of helping. Cash to buy locally produced farm products, for example.

But Ellen Levinson with the Alliance for Food Aid says American food imports remain vital for many struggling countries.

Ellen Levinson: I think it’s absolutely appropriate in a country that’s food deficit, and it depends on imports of a commodity to meet the food needs in the country.

The issue will be part of the congressional Farm Bill debate next month.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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