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Public Statements

Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


VETERANS' BENEFITS ENHANCEMENT ACT--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - April 22, 2008)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KOHL. Last year, the World Health Organization reported that 25,000 people died every day from hunger-related causes. Let me repeat that number: 25,000 people who died every day last year.

The World Health Organization further reported that of that 25,000 people who died, 18,000 were children. That means that in the time it took me to say that last sentence, a child somewhere in the world has died. It also means before I finish this sentence, another child will have died from hunger. For lack of food, a child dies every 4.8 seconds.

As grim as these facts are, things have grown worse, much worse. We are witnessing what could be called a perfect storm of world hunger. The world's supply of food is down, food demand is up, the climate is changing, and crops are failing.

Food production resources are shifting every day to energy production, food costs are skyrocketing, and, indeed, entire societies are falling apart as a result. This is not another round of appeals for humanitarian food assistance. There is something new and very troubling occurring.

One of the greatest responsibilities of Government is to assure people the basic necessities of life. When that assurance fails, governments fail with it, and an already insecure world moves that much closer to chaos. The most basic need, of course, is the need for food. However, in recent events around the globe, 33 countries have experienced riots and violence because of a failed food supply, including countries in this hemisphere. In the face of hunger, order breaks down, and reason is lost. People are painfully realizing that food production is not keeping up with food demand, and this is a recipe for global disaster.

Last month, the Director of the World Food Program, Joesette Sheeran, wrote to President Bush on the immediate need for increased food assistance due to rising food and related costs. I met with Director Sheeran last week and got a firsthand appraisal of the dire situation.

Rising food and transportation costs have created a $750 million hole in the World Food Program budget which had assumed that the U.S. contribution this year would include a pending $350 million supplemental request for PL 480.

Unless this Congress acts, thousands of people will die, and an increasing number of societies and nations will be at risk. This is indeed a world crisis.

Last week, OMB Director Nussle appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee, and when asked to state whether he thought there was a need to provide food assistance above the President's request of $350 million, he declined. He dodged the question.

There is no way to dodge this problem. This is a problem of world security. This is a problem of U.S. security and our place in the world. We must and we will respond.

As chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, I take the issue of international food assistance very seriously. Although the President's supplemental request of $350 million was predictable--after all, he has requested the exact same amount for 3 years in a row--it is totally blind as to what is happening in the world. It is therefore very dangerous.

If the United States wants to maintain its role as a world leader, there is no better way to do that than to step forward now, take full account of what is happening, and take meaningful steps to stop the suffering, to stop the hunger, stop the dying. In fact, it is time to be a leader.

So I will continue to work for food funding assistance at a level that does not turn a blind eye to the suffering in the world, nor the danger to the world community. So I ask other Senators to join me in stating support to fight this perfect storm of world hunger and to support action to do something about it.

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