AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006
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Mr. DeWINE. Madam President, I thank Chairman COCHRAN for taking the time to have this very serious discussion with me about a life saving proposal that I believe needs to become part of this bill before it is passed into law.
The proposal, originally suggested by President Bush, would allow a small percentage of U.S. food aid dollars to be used to purchase food locally in the country or region of a food aid crisis until U.S. food aid can arrive. For example, if there is a food crisis in Ethiopia, the U.S. Government would be able to purchase food in neighboring countries, or even in other areas of Ethiopia where food is available, and use it to save lives until food shipped from the United States could arrive. On average, U.S. food aid takes over 4 months to arrive in countries in need, and during that gap period, people die--children die.
There is also another consideration that makes this proposal even more imperative. U.S. food aid is stored in Galveston, TX, and 60 percent of our food aid shipments exit through the Gulf of Mexico. Now, with Rita raging off the coast of Texas, several hundreds of millions of dollars of food aid are in the direct path of the storm.
Even if the food stores are not destroyed by this storm, the vessels that were intended to transport the food aid have been sent out to sea and rail companies are not picking up additional commodities. This means the U.S. food aid delivery system is in a state of arrest. If we do not provide a limited authority to purchase food locally until U.S. food aid can arrive in countries suffering from a food shortage crisis, kids will starve to death as they wait for help to arrive. We cannot in good conscience let that happen.
This is one of those rare times when we, as elected officials, have the opportunity to take a step that directly saves lives. Make no mistake about it--if we fail to give the U.S. Agency for International Development the flexibility to purchase food from local sources, our lack of action will prevent us from saving lives. Failing to act will cost the lives of thousands of suffering men, women, and children. I trust that such a failure is simply not acceptable to my fellow Senators. It certainly is not acceptable to me.