Campus News

Cornell economist will deliver this year’s Fanning Lecture

Nationally known economist Christopher Barrett will debunk myths of foreign farm aid during this year’s J.W. Fanning Lecture Nov. 4 at 10:30 a.m. in the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

Barrett, professor of economics and management at Cornell University and co-director of Cornell’s African Food Security and Natural Resources Management Program, will deliver the annual lecture in room K/L of the Georgia Center. An expert in development economics, Barrett will discuss “Food Aid, American Agriculture, the World Trade Organization and International Development.” The lecture will be based partly on Barrett’s co-authored book, Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting Its Role, published earlier this year.

Barrett will address a number of myths about U.S. food aid. For example, farm interests have long held that U.S. food aid providessubstantial benefits for U.S. farmers. However, in a recent interview with the New York Times, Barrett argued that various intermediaries enjoy most of the gains from U.S. food aid, not American farmers. These intermediaries include large U.S. grain merchandising and ­shipping firms.

His research established that several nonprofit aid organizations depended on food aid for a quarter to half of their budgets. While the organizations distribute food in poor countries, it’s not well known that they have also become grain traders, selling much of the donated food on local markets in poor countries to generate tens of millions of dollars to aid their antipoverty programs.

Barrett’s research established that at least 50 cents of each dollar’s worth of food aid is spent on transport, storage and administrative costs in the process of selling food to raise money for foreign aid.

He calls this an extremely inefficient way to finance long-term development. It would be more efficient, he says, to simply give the money directly to nonprofit groups.