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Kohl Food Aid Amendment

Location: Washington, DC

Kohl Food Aid Amendment

Mr. President, I call up amendment number 455. I ask that further reading of the amendment be suspended. I am pleased to join with Senator Roberts in offering this amendment.

I rise today to offer an amendment to provide $600 million for our international food aid programs. The amendment is cosponsored by Senators Byrd, Daschle, Leahy, Harkin, Biden, Murray, Nelson of Florida, Dorgan, Lincoln, Durbin, Dewine, Baucus, Roberts and Dayton.

Our amendment is necessary because of the intense pressure the food needs in Iraq have placed on our world food programs. Already, the Department of Defense has used $269 million from our largest international food aid program - PL-480 - to feed the Iraqi people. That is $269 million from the $1.4 billion that was appropriated last year for other world hunger needs in places like Sub-Saharan Africa and Afghanistan. As the war progresses and the reconstruction begins, the draw on our existing food aid accounts will continue.

Specifically, our amendment replenishes the $269 million already taken from PL-480 for Iraq. It also adds $100 million to an emergency grain reserve -- the Emerson Trust -- which has recently released approximately 800,000 tons of wheat to Iraq. A final $231 million is made available for future Iraqi draws on PL 480 as that country waits for the resumption of the UN "Oil for Food" Program.

Mr. President, this amendment is responsible budgeting. We are asking only for the minimum dollars we need to meet an unanticipated food crisis in Iraq - a crisis that is the direct result of the war. Our actions will allow us to meet this crisis efficiently without crippling our other food aid efforts.

I do not for a moment dispute the Administration's decision to tap into PL-480 funds to meet immediate needs in Iraq. I do dispute the position that we should not replenish those funds - thus effectively defaulting on our obligations to starving people in other countries.

There is no doubt that the war has disrupted food delivery to innocent Iraqis. And everyone agrees that, as we move to liberate the Iraqi people, we have an absolute obligation to deliver humanitarian relief.

Before the war, a full 60% of the Iraqi population was fed through the UN-run "Oil for Food Program" -- a program that turned Iraqi oil revenues into food supplies. It provided over $3 billion worth of food a year distributed at more than 40,000 food distribution sites throughout the country. On March 17th, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan suspended the Oil for Food Program. Now, over two weeks later, the citizens of Iraq are nearing the end of their food stocks.

Mr. President, we are not just guessing that a food crisis is imminent in Iraq. The UN has stated unequivocally that there is a continuing and immediate need to feed the Iraqi people as they attempt to reestablish the Oil for Food Program. Last Friday, the United Nations petitioned the world community for $1.3 billion to meet that need. Just Saturday, the World Food Program announced that the operation in Iraq could "evolve into the largest humanitarian operation in history." The supplemental before us earmarks no funds for that effort.

The Administration has decided - I believe correctly -- to use our existing food aid programs to deliver this aid to Iraq. Our amendment simply asks that we replace the funds we are removing now - and will continue to remove -- from that program - funds that were budgeted for starving people in Africa, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and North Korea.

Our amendment is endorsed by a coalition of international relief agencies called the "Coalition for Food Aid." Their members include the American Red Cross, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, and Save the Children. The amendment is also supported by the American Farm Bureau, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the US Rice Producers Association, the USA Rice Federation, and the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee. I ask unanimous consent to put these letters of endorsement in the record.

Mr. President, in the last month, we have heard many voices expressing many views of what it means to be American and at war. Among those disparate voices, there are strong, common themes: our pride in our brave troops; our burning hatred for tyranny and injustice; our undying compassion for the poor and hungry of the world.

Our amendment speaks to the last of these. It states simply that, even in times of war, America will remain a compassionate leader in the world community and a passionate combatant of hunger and hopelessness throughout the world. I urge my colleagues to support the amendment, and I yield the floor.

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