“Working for peanuts” is a phrase typically used when someone is toiling for little reward. But when describing the activities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a far better phrase is “working with peanuts,” especially when referring to the agreement recently reached by USDA to provide this nutritional commodity to a neighboring nation in great need, the Republic of Haiti.
USDA crafted a deal that will result in 500 metric tons of packaged, dry-roasted peanuts grown in the United States to be shipped later this year to school children in Haiti who have little access to food. This effort stems from the “Stocks for Food” program that first started in late 2007, a joint project between the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) and Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) that transfers surplus farm commodities in government inventory to feeding programs and food banks both domestically and overseas.
The school feeding project in Haiti, where the United Nations will distribute the peanuts, is funded by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which sends domestic agricultural commodities to school feeding programs at primary schools around the world that are struggling against poverty, malnutrition, and disease. The surplus peanuts will help feed nearly 140,000 malnourished kids for a full school year. Having food available for the kids increases their attendance at school and improves their ability to learn.
The Farm Service Agency joins the Foreign Agricultural Service in prideful use of the nation’s commodities to help nations in need. FSA’s Commodity Operations staff in Washington, D.C., and Kansas City, Missouri, worked diligently to procure the peanuts necessary to fulfill the international food-aid mission led by FAS and the domestic needs addressed by the Food and Nutrition Service. The multi-agency, USDA effort is especially rewarding when all of the puzzle pieces fit and a commodity is used wisely to meet nutrition requirements of people throughout the world.
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This is a HUGE mistake. But, I'm only someone with 30+ years of experience in Haiti. What do I know?
this is a terrible idea with historical precedence. you are making the same mistake again that was made with what Haitians call "Miami rice" (though it originally came from the home state of one Mr. Bill Clinton).
Haiti grows peanuts. help them help themselves. This will only further impoverish them and imbue reliance on the international community.
this is wrong. judging from the strength of other replies, I'm not alone in that assessment.
It's so sad to read this announced as "good news" when we already know how this story ends. Last time this happened, former President Clinton had to apologize for making a "devil's bargain" that "destroyed Haitian rice farming." And now, here we are at the negotiation table with the devil again.
If the U.S. Government goes through with this plan despite the fact that not ONE comment on this blog so far has been positive, you will have proven what so many Haitians already suspect. You're not here for us... you're here for yourselves.
Please... prove us wrong.
Good Grief - USDA patting itself on the back for destroying an economy. Why don't we find what they don't or can't produce and send them tons of that!
This wouldn't be happening if Haiti had a legitimate government.
This is rich. First, the US destroys Haitian agriculture by compelling the then Aristide government to lower tariffs to the lowest level than anywhere else in the Caribbean and then exports its own subsidized agricultural goods (rice, cereals, chickens, etc) to the country, as former President Clinton acknowledged with crocodile tears. Now it wants to dump its subsidized peanuts on Haiti and undermine the ability of Haitian farmers to increase peanut production. The hypocrisy never stops, and Haiti's own sycophantic government officials are all too willing to abide them in their destructive policies for the crumbs they get in return. If the USDA really wants to help Haiti feeds its own people, why does it not start by pressuring the US government to change its neoliberal "free trade" policies and work with Haitian farmers to boost domestic production instead?
This policy will literally kill people by taking away their livelihoods. Peanut farmers are among the poorest in Haiti, and many US institutions have spent money trying to help them develop their value chains, including USAID, Clinton Foundation, Partners in Health, World Food Programme, Meds and Foods for Kids. Why on earth would we wipe out all of these efforts to do something positive with this dump? Bad idea USDA, bad idea.
Thank you for the comments on this blog. We hear your points and understand your concerns for the wellbeing of the Haitian people. USDA recently donated 500 metric tons of peanuts to Haiti in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and in coordination with the Haitian government. The donated peanuts will be used as morning snacks in USDA/WFP school feeding programs in vulnerable areas of Haiti where malnutrition is high. Nearly a third of Haitian children suffer from stunting, and many students arrive at school in the morning without having eaten breakfast. Peanuts, as a traditional part of the Haitian diet, provide much-needed protein.
Before donating the peanuts, USDA worked with WFP to develop a distribution program to ensure that the donation would not negatively affect Haiti’s domestic peanut market. Haiti currently faces an emergency food security situation due to the 2014/2015 drought. Peanut production has declined in many areas and that decline is expected to continue this harvest season. In addition, the Haitian peanut supply has a high rate of contamination by aflatoxin, a known carcinogen that has also been linked to a host of other health problems.
Because of the supply and safety issues, the only factory in Haiti that produces peanut-based food rations to address the current health and nutrition crisis has routinely had to import aflatoxin-free peanuts.
USDA remains committed to working closely with its partners and the government of Haiti to address the country’s immediate food security challenges and to strengthen the Haitian agricultural sector over the longer term.
With the support of USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, WFP is providing daily hot meals to more than 175,000 children at 610 local schools in Haiti’s most severely drought-stricken areas. The daily meals, which incorporate donated U.S. bulgur wheat, green peas and vegetable oil, will be supplemented by a morning snack of roasted peanuts thanks to the recent donation. USDA is also funding research by WFP into the use of peanuts in emergency rations.
In collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development, USDA has provided more than $15 million in technical expertise to the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture to revitalize Haiti’s agriculture sector. USDA is also working to identify a Haitian partner to implement an aflatoxin remediation program and is providing support for a new vocational agricultural school, set to open next week, that will train a new generation of Haitian agricultural professionals.
Drive Haitian peanut farmers bankrupt so that they're forced to work in sweatshops, and promote food dependence.
As many others pointed out, the export of rice to Haiti has nearly destroyed the Haitian rice farmers. Please do not send peanuts, which will essentially destroy that market.
My friend in Haiti say the "crisis" you speak of is baloney, and he clarified about this need to import aflatoxin-free peanuts:
"yes due to supply and safety issues after two huge new processing plants were built with donor money right after the earthquake and no work was done to develop the local supply chain to support that, they temporarily imported to meet their sales contracts"
The US government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to support Hait's Agricultural Development, then instead of buying locally grown products to support Haitian school feeding initiatives, they undercut the farmers that they spent millions of dollars supporting, undercutting their own efforts at the same time. Tom Vilsack (USDA and Ertharin Cousin (WFP), how about getting your teams to think before making such deals? Either give the peanuts to US food banks or better yet, SELL the peanuts in developed countries, take 100% of the proceeds and invest them in economic development programs targeting the parents of those school children ... With their increased income, they will be able to not only feed their families but also help Haiti's economy which will lead to SUSTAINABILITY!
Please - do not do this. For all the reasons already stated!!!!
USDA Moderator cites the MFK factory in Quartier Morin that is the producer of the Plumpy high nutrition peanut bars and their reliance on imported US peanuts as justification for this program. And identifies aflatoxin in Haitian peanuts as the reason why US peanuts instead of Haitian peanuts are imported and used. The USDA is not assisting the Haitian peanut growers in solving that problem (aflatoxin presence) which is a matter of proper growing and storage methods that prevent peanuts with aflatoxin so that MFK can use Haitian grown peanuts. What the USDA should be doing is assisting Haitian peanut growers through education, training in growing methods and establishment of storage units to have aflatoxin-free peanuts available in sufficient quantities to meet peanut products processors like MFK needs and to reduce their reliance on expensive imported US peanuts. That approach makes much more sense for both the Haitian peanut growers and production firms like MFK.
Great for this brillant idea but first of all do you remember Clinton administration RICE project? How it was ended? If you have a clear explanation you'll find more people ready to support and believe in this one.
Shame on you, USDA. You know very well what you are doing, and it is another disaster for Haiti perpetuated by the US. BUY HAITIAN PEANUT BUTTER FOR THE CHILDREN! CONTRIBUTE TO THE HAITIAN ECONOMY! STOP UNDERMINING HAITI.
Imported wheat? Imported peas? Imported oil? Imported peanuts? All I can see is American farmers benefiting from Haiti's poor children... Children who would be eating if their parents could only find a market to sell their corn, rice, and sorghum.
We just harvested tons of corn and sorghum in a field where we barely even tried. I think that the U.S. Gov't can do better than that. The Haitian people deserve better than that. The American people deserve to be proud of what their tax dollars accomplish abroad. Most of my American friends in Haiti bow their heads in shame when they read such news. You should be listening to them.
If you don't intend to do better... just call it what it is: an American Agricultural Stimulus Package.
USDA - time to respond to the numerous comments and news articles about the harmful impact of dumping crops that are grown locally in Haiti. I have many personal friends in the Northeast of Haiti who grow peanuts. They already live a difficult existence. Please do not make this worse by lowering the price of peanuts in the country. To help with issues of malnutrition in Haiti buy local HAITIAN peanuts and support the small family farmers who are growing them locally!
IN RESPONSE TO USDA MODERATOR'S 4/6 COMMENT
Your response reinforces my point - You spend $15 million in technical expertise to revitalize Haiti’s agriculture sector and at the same time you undercut your work (paid for with our taxpayers money) as well as the Haitian Peanut Growers by importing US peanuts. Even with the drought and the aflatoxin issues, ASSESO was able to buy 286MT of aflatoxin free peanuts from more than 2,300 Haitian farmers in 2015. How about you spend the money it is going to cost you to ship the peanuts and buy 5MT of aflatoxin free peanuts from Asseso?
I am currently at the Haiti Connection conference in Port au Prince where we are talking about SUSTAINABILITY and what that means. Everyone has made mistakes, took stock, and regrouped to approach a problem more sustainably by putting power in the hands of the brilliant, passionate and committed Haitians working hard for their country against unfathomable odds. If we can learn from our mistakes, why can't the US government learn from their disastrous policies and political meddling in Haiti? Rice. Pigs. The list goes on. History matters. Don't repeat it.
This is not the 1990s - we know better now. There is so much research and analysis about the effects of this kind of transfer of agricultural products in countries with fragile economies such as Haiti. Peanuts are one of the few agricultural products that still have a viable market in Haiti - out of all of the commodities the US could have selected for this kind of program, this is perhaps the worst. I have lived in Haiti for 5 years and am currently studying food and nutrition policy, and am just disappointed in this action. Whether or not this is a well-intentioned program just doesn't matter - it will simply cause more harm than good. I think the USDA needs to do its homework if the goal here is actually to sustainably improve nutrition outcomes for Haitian children (which many people doubt is actually the objective of these kinds of programs).
Don't undermine Haitian peanut growers! This neo-con policy is NOT needed in Haiti! Sell the peanuts in a place where there are no peanut farmers! I have worked and lived in Haiti since 2009. They have the BEST peanut butter EVER! They don't need our Peanuts. This is bad US policy! Bad for Haiti! Bad for the US! If US peanut farmers want to help - them send them to Haiti to help them improve their peanut farming practices.
Please stop making the same mistake over and over again . Re think US policy and partner with local farmers .
This is the American rice subsidy in Haiti all over again. (Please read the book "Travesty in Haiti" for an enlightening read about this and many other damaging things the US has "unintentionally" done to Haiti.) Next thing you know, you'll be patting yourself on the back for importing sugar cane. Sigh. I suggest building relationships with Haitian farmers so you are better informed and can work in partnership with them instead of against them. I'll be signing the petition against this. This is outrageous! https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/halt-planned-usda-dumping-us-…
Here's also a link to a great Ted Talk about listening to those we intend to help. It's smugly titled, "Want to help someone? Shut up and listen": https://www.ted.com/talks/ernesto_sirolli_want_to_help_someone_shut_up_…
Can you instead donate the surplus peanuts to US zoos and animal rescue groups?
This is a terrible desire! What you send the poor Haitian peanut farmers do?
Peanut is one of the product that Haitian farmers can grow easily, and this help them to send their children to school. This is for me a bad intention by pretending Humanitarian Help.
There are many US citizens that give and/or travel to Haiti to try and help things work for a more education and the development of a real economy.
It seems very transparent. It is obvious that experienced and highly educated and specialized professionals in the both the Department of State and USDA fully know about and understand the crippling effects these kinds of actions will have on the fragile farming economy in Haiti.
This peanut giveaway proposal may appear as a humanitarian act of good will to the casual passer-by. However, it is not. It is powerfully and primarily an act of political calculating and savvy for what counts with big farming dollars from the USDA and our tax money. As these kinds of decisions are approved and encouraged by the USDA and State Department, we will continue to be responsible for preventing Haitian farming and employment from developing and becoming sustainable.
**The US State Department and the USDA could help Haitian children to have a future that included employment We could help to support Haiti in growing their economy into self sufficiency with a vibrant farming sector.
What could really be a win win is if the US would buy the peanuts from Haitian farmers instead of US farmers.
Another unconscionable dumping of US product into the Haitian market, like Miami rice under Bill Clinton, as other commenters have noted. Clinton has abjectly, publicly, and profusely apologized to the Haitian people and government for that wrong-headed policy. The USDA should ask him about the negative consequences of such "humanitarianism" before they broadcast the kindliness of their charitable dumping. Haitians raise their own peanuts. There is not a famine in Haiti. Don't destroy another market for home grown foodstuffs. Here's Teddy Roosevelt on such ideas: "Sentimental humanitarians always form a most pernicious body, with an influence for bad hardly surpassed by that of the professional criminal class."
What a ridiculous spin on the truth of the matter: you're dumping excess in Haiti and undermining local farmers.
This is a terrible idea. First we devastate the sugar cane industry, next we devastate the rice industry and now the US wants to devastate the peanut industry. I have been living in Haiti assisting with the growth of the peanut industry for several years now. If the US really wants to help they should send peanut seed to Haiti or at least take down all of the roadblocks the US peanut industry has created for sending peanut seed to Haiti.
Help the Haitians to help themselves. Don't damage the agriculture they have. Help the Haitian peanut farmers, don't undermine them with massive amounts of free peanuts. This is a very questionable humanitarian effort.
I believe the U.S. plan for peanut dumping is out of alignment with USAID strategies for food security, especially more recent policies that favor locally grown food procurement. Local and regional food procurement spurs the development of local rural economies. I am concerned that this plan will damage the local peanut industry in Haiti. Therefore, I urge you to discontinue this plan.
You think you are doing good, but you are killing the livelihood of the farmers, who have been negatively already by the actions of Clinton's organization.
We well meaning citizens of the U.S. need to look into the historical and current repercussions to those we wish to help. Our mistakes in this has caused widespread harm to other countries, including Haiti (see the rice "help" results), with the follow up of anger and mistrust. Please do not send peanuts to a country trying to sell their own.
Terrible, short-sighted policy that tries to pass off our lack/incoherent planning on Haitian peanut farmers, who will be economically devastated.
Shame on you! You've already destroyed the Haitian rice market. Now you're going after the peanut farmers, all so the rich can get richer while the poor grow more poor. How can you people live with yourselves? Let the countless lives you destroy be on your consciences till the day you die.
This is such a terrible plan. The Haitian economy is already so weak as it is. If you really ate dead sent in donating it, send it to a country where pets are not a major okay of the preexisting local economy.
Anyone else getting tired of all the complaining? Why so few solutions? We've been working our TAILS off for YEARS directly helping Haitian farmers -- a true path to autonomy. thoughtful support must be required to help third world farmers to develop robust agribusinesses of their own.
Check out Singing Rooster - then help us with real solutions: https://singingrooster.org/dump-peanuts-haiti/