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Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 - Extension of Remarks

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The House in Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 1947) to provide for the reform and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department of Agriculture through fiscal year 2018, and for other purposes:

Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chair, I rise in support of the Royce/Engel amendment to make U.S. International food aid programs more efficient. The United States is a generous nation and since the 1950s has fed billions of people around the world through the Food for Peace program. However, nearly sixty years later, the world has changed and the program needs to change with it. The status quo is no longer an option. We must act now to change with the times.

The United States does not have the surpluses it did decades ago and it is now forced to purchase food on the commercial markets. Near record-high farm prices have meant our food aid dollars do not go as far. According to independent analyses, the number of direct recipients of our food aid has dropped from 74 million in 2006 to an average of 30 million more recently. Research has shown that famine and hunger are not necessarily caused by the lack of food, but frequently by the lack of access to available food, and quite often driven by conflict. According to a 2009 report by GAO, this locally-available food is a quarter to a third less expensive than in-kind food aid.

Another important benefit of the increased flexibility this amendment provides is that U.S. assistance could be used to purchase the nutrient dense foods that are critical to pregnant mothers and their young children. By providing the right inputs at the right time, our assistance will not just alleviate hunger, but ensure that recipients have healthy and productive futures.

Our constituents demand that we take a critical and judicious look at each and every government program to determine whether it is efficient and effective in reaching its objective. With the lack of agricultural surpluses in our country, the sole remaining objective of our food aid programs should be to serve the maximum number of people in need in the most cost effective way possible. While this amendment is a good start, I think we need to do more. I wish we could adopt the Administration's proposal--reforms that could feed an additional 10 million people.

The crisis in the Horn of Africa, the current devastation of the communities in Syria, and the fragile nature of chronically hungry places like the Sahel region of Africa call us to be responsible stewards of resources, both for United States taxpayers and the people around the world who depend on our assistance. These reforms are proven. For example, monetization programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are only earning $0.51 for every dollar of commodities provided. The only responsible action is to find a better way to serve the mothers and young children that depend on these programs.

Reducing the enormous suffering associated with hunger and famine is a goal rooted in the fundamental generosity of the American people and is the right thing to do.

I strongly urge my colleagues to support this important amendment.

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