WASHINGTON, DC—At a hearing today of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) made the case for passage of the Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act (S.384) to address the global food crisis by seeking to improve the effectiveness and expand the reach of U.S. agriculture assistance to the developing world. Senator Casey’s full statement from the hearing is below.
“Global hunger and food security is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions and also creates a national security issue because of instability arising from conflict over access to food,” said Senator Casey. “The Obama Administration has rightly prioritized food security and political support in the Senate is growing through the Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act. Creating an environment where local farmers can produce for themselves and their communities as well as easily trade and get their goods to market is the key to fundamentally changing this ongoing crisis.”
Senator Casey and Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, first introduced the Global Food Security Act in 2008 and reintroduced the bill for the current Congress last year. This bipartisan legislation has 14 cosponsors.
The Global Food Security Act is a multi-year authorization that seeks to provide solutions that will have the greatest effect.
First, the bill authorizes additional resources for agricultural productivity and rural development. Their plan draws from the experience of U.S. land grant colleges and the contributions they have made to U.S. agriculture. The bill creates a new program that would strengthen institutions of higher education in the areas of agriculture sciences, research and extension programs. The legislation also significantly expands U.S. assistance for agriculture, rural development and nutrition programs in developing nations.
Second, this bill will provide for enhanced 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, the Special Coordinator for Food Security who would forge a comprehensive food security strategy.
Third, the bill also improves the U.S. emergency response to food crises by creating a separate Emergency Food Assistance Fund that can make local and regional purchases of food, where appropriate. The legislation would provide USAID with the flexibility to respond to emergencies more quickly, without supplanting other food programs.
Promoting Global Food Security: Next Steps for Congress and the Administration
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
April 22, 2010
Bob Casey Statement for the record.
Today, every five seconds a child somewhere in the world will die from starvation.
While the United States has historically played an important role in addressing hunger internationally, this simple fact should serve as a galvanizing call to action. The 2008 global food crisis brought attention to the fact that emergency food assistance was not enough and that donors and recipient countries needed to work together to address the systemic problems that lead to food insecurity.
The Obama Administration has rightly prioritized food security and political support in the Senate is growing through the Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act. Creating an environment where local farmers can produce for themselves and their communities as well as easily trade and get their goods to market is the key to fundamentally changing this ongoing crisis.
With the host of competing priorities for U.S. attention, I believe there are two reasons why food security matters:
First, this is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions that we can go a long ways towards solving. As one of the richest countries in the world, we have a moral obligation to help when we can. This crisis is solvable with a combination of assistance and emphasis on providing small farmers around the world with the know-how, technology and means to provide for themselves.
Second, global hunger is indeed a national security issue. Instability arising from conflict over access to food is a documented and real problem. The 2008 food crisis unfortunately brought this into acute focus. We saw it in Somalia, where struggles to gain access to food have enveloped population centers in violence. We have seen it in Egypt as citizen’s rioted for access to bread.
And we have seen it in Haiti where hospital beds filled in 2008 with those injured during food riots. Increased instability in any of these countries has a direct impact on U.S. national security interests.
The root causes of this perfect storm of a crisis are by now well known, but worth recounting. In 2008, food demand was driven higher due to expanding populations and rising incomes. More cereals were needed to feed livestock for the production of meat and dairy products and to fill rising demand for biofuels. High oil prices combined with weak harvests, and rising global demand created a scramble for resources. Wheat prices more than doubled and rice prices more than tripled between January and May 2008. Twenty-eight countries imposed export bans on their crops, driving up commodity prices and limiting supply. This led to political unrest across the globe, concentrated among developing countries with large, food insecure poor urban populations.
While this was indeed a perfect storm of events, the underlying issues that created the crisis continue. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 80 to 90 percent of all cereal prices remain 25 percent higher than they were before the crisis began. In many Asian, Latin American and Caribbean countries prices are still more than 25 percent higher than in the pre-crisis period. In the wake of the economic crisis, the World Food Program began receiving requests for assistance even from countries that previously were able to provide for themselves.
The peripheral effects of food insecurity are considerable. High rates of hunger are shown to be linked to gender inequality, especially in terms of education and literacy, which also negatively affects the rate of child malnutrition. It is estimated that 60% of the world’s chronically hungry are women and girls, 20% of which are children under five.
Hunger in a country like Pakistan poses both a humanitarian and security issue. Last year, over 77 million people in Pakistan were considered “food insecure” by the World Food Program. That is nearly half of their population. As Pakistan’s military is conducts continued operations against extremist forces, those numbers could increase. Hunger and competition for food can lead to further instability and potentially undermine the country’s government leadership at a very critical time.
The global food crisis is still a serious problem, and despite the efforts of the administration, we still have a lot of catching up to do in order to properly respond. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, U.S. commitment to agricultural development has declined in recent years, though emergency food assistance continues at robust levels. Worldwide, the share of agriculture in development assistance has fallen from a high of 13 percent in 1985 to under 4 percent between 2002 and 2007. U.S. development assistance to African agriculture fell from its peak of about $500 million in 1988 to less than $100 million in 2006.
USAID has been hardest hit during this period. The Agency once considered agricultural expertise to be a core strength, but today operates under diminished capacity. As recently as 1990, USAID employed 181 agricultural specialists; in 2009 it employed just 22. In the 1970s, the U.S. government sponsored around 20,000 annual scholarships for future leadership in agriculture, engineering, and related fields; today, that number has fallen to less than 900.
We simply don’t currently have the adequate assistance infrastructure government to respond to this crisis, but the administration making progress toward building this capability.
The Administration’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative (GHFSI), is a comprehensive approach to food security based on country and community led planning and collaboration. I welcome this opportunity to hear directly from the Administration on this effort. While I know that the administration has assiduously worked to coordinate an interagency process and selection criteria for country participation, questions remain in terms of overall leadership of the initiative as well as its plans to develop internal expertise and capacity that is sustainable over the long term.
In the Senate, we have also worked to bring attention to the world’s hungry. Senator Lugar, a respected leader is this field for decades, and I joined to introduce the Global Food Security Act.
Our bill has three major objectives:
irst, this bill will provide for enhanced 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, the Special Coordinator for Food Security who would forge a comprehensive food security strategy.
Second, it would 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 expands their own crop production. Every dollar invested in agricultural research and development generates nine dollars worth of food in the developing world. This provision can serve as the vehicle for the President’s pledge to more than double the U.S. agricultural development assistance.
Third, it would 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 when appropriate.
This is one of those rare occasions where a serious crisis was greeted by a substantial Administration response as well as bi-partisan collaboration in the Senate and House. I am encouraged that there has been positive movement towards fundamentally changing how we look at food security issues. Such support, however, is not permanent and we should enact this multi-year authorization bill to ensure that such congressional support exists in the future. We cannot wait for another massive food crisis before taking action on this legislation. This is the right thing to do and will ultimately enhance the security of the United States and our allies.