Cash, please:

As soaring food prices threaten to unleash widespread hunger across Africa and other poor countries, President Bush is right to press Congress for more food assistance. He is also right to insist that some of that aid be given in cash to purchase food from local farmers. Unfortunately, the American farm lobby, which supports food aid as long as it gets the profit, is fighting any change. The situation has become increasingly desperate as rising energy prices, growing world demand and government-subsidised ethanol production have driven corn prices up by 25%. The prices of wheat and soybeans have doubled. There have already been food riots in Haiti, Egypt and Somalia, with fears of more to come.

President Bush is asking Congress for an additional $770 million, which would boost American food aid to roughly $5 billion over the next two years. Bush has said that up to a quarter of that aid should be given in cash. That is a start, but the percentages will need to grow. The developing world needs to develop its own ability to feed itself. For that to happen, American farmers will have to be weaned from American food aid. There is more that Washington must do. Especially with corn and oil prices as high as they are, the time has come to put an end to subsidies to transform corn into ethanol. — The New York Times