Casey Opening Statement at Global Hunger Hearing


WASHINGTON, DC- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) participated in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on global hunger.  The hearing focused on alleviating global hunger and the potential role the U.S. can play.  

“The cost of not doing anything, of sitting on the sidelines, is unacceptable and could lead an additional 100 million more people to slide into hunger,” said Senator Casey.  “This is also a national security issue, one that will impact the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.   We have already seen the devastating effect food shortages have had on developing countries, sparking violence and riots and putting added pressure on already fragile and under-resourced governments.  We must put in place the tools today to help prevent future food crises down the road.”

Senator Casey worked with other Members of Congress last year, including Senator Durbin, to boost the level of U.S. supplemental funds to address the immediate consequences of the global hunger crisis.  Senator Casey also joined Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) in introducing the Global Food Security Act to overhaul U.S. assistance efforts to better address the long-term structural deficiencies that prevent developing nations from attaining self-sufficiency on food production.

Senator Casey’s opening statement follows below.

U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

Opening Statement for Hearing on Alleviating Global Hunger: Challenges and Opportunities for US Leadership

March 24, 2009

I am pleased that the Committee is today holding a hearing on alleviating global hunger and the challenges and opportunities it presents for the United States.  I thank the Ranking Member, Senator Lugar for his efforts to organize this hearing.  I have been focused on this issue for the past year, ever since a dramatic spike in commodity prices led to food shortages, social unrest, and a rise in the number of hungry around the world.  I worked with other Members of Congress, including Senator Durbin, to boost the level of U.S. supplemental funds to address the immediate consequences of the crisis, but recognized quickly that a “Band-Aid” approach to food shortages could only take us so far.  


Accordingly, I was honored to join Senator Lugar in introducing the Global Food Security Act to overhaul U.S. assistance efforts to better address the long-term structural deficiencies that prevent developing nations from attaining self-sufficiency on food production.  We must be prepared to provide the tools, skills, and resources so that farmers in developing nations have the capacity to grow their own food and export products to national and international markets.  Not only is that solution more efficient, it is also the only moral choice.   

Let me address an obvious question.  With all the problems America is facing at home, why does the need to address global hunger still matter as an urgent foreign policy priority?  

This is a moral issue that strikes at the heart of our conscience.  It is about preserving human life and alleviating suffering.  A report released by the European Union last year warned that the combination of rising food and higher fuel prices jeopardizes the Millennium Development Goals of cutting poverty, hunger, and disease in half by 2015.  

The cost of not doing anything, of sitting on the sidelines, is unacceptable and could lead an additional 100 million more people to slide into hunger.  

This is also a national security issue, one that will impact the conduct of U.S. foreign policy.   We have already seen the devastating effect food shortages have had on developing countries, sparking violence and riots and putting added pressure on already fragile and under-resourced governments.  We must put in place the tools today to help prevent future food crises down the road.

Given the new threats we face, the United States can serve its national security and humanitarian objectives by fully funding overseas emergency food assistance programs.   I know that Senator Lugar has already summarized the key provisions of the Global Food Security Act, but let me offer some additional thoughts.  Passage of this legislation would achieve three major objectives:   

1)     Enhance coordination within the U.S. government so that USAID, the Agriculture Department, and other involved entities are not working at cross-purposes.   We do that by establishing a new position in the White House, the Special Coordinator for Food Security, who would report directly to the President and who would forge a comprehensive U.S. food security strategy; 

2)     Expand U.S. investment in the agricultural productivity of developing nations, so that nations facing escalating food prices can rely less on emergency food assistance and instead take the steps to expand their own crop production.  A leading agricultural expert recently estimated that every dollar invested in agricultural research and development generates nine dollars worth of food in the developing world.  I am especially grateful to Senator Lugar for his bold proposal, called HECTARE, to establish a network of universities around the world to cooperate on agriculture research; 

3)     Modernize our system of emergency food assistance, so that it is more flexible and can provide aid on short notice.  We do that by authorizing a new $500 million fund for U.S. emergency food assistance and enabling the local or regional purchase of food when appropriate; 

I want to thank our witnesses for their continued commitment to alleviating the global food crisis.  I also ask the Chairman to enter into the hearing record today a statement of testimony from the Alliance for Global Food Security.  The Alliance consists of private voluntary organizations and cooperatives operating in approximately 100 developing nations and would like to share their overall perspective on how the United States can best respond to the global hunger crisis. 

The 111th Congress, working with the Obama Administration, has the opportunity to shape and pass significant legislation to modernize and expand our food assistance approach.  The Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to mark up the Global Food Security Act next week and I look forward to expedited floor consideration thereafter.

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