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Public Statements

International Food and Funding

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. President, very soon the Administration is expected to send to Congress supplemental appropriation requests to address ongoing military needs in Iraq and the humanitarian crisis posed by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. My hope is that the administration will include adequate food aid funding in that supplemental proposal. Recent press reports suggest they may be moving in that direction. If, however, the Administration's proposed supplemental fails to provide adequate food aid funding, it is my intention to offer an amendment that would essentially accomplish four things.

First, my amendment would provide full funding to meet US food aid commitments from the tsunami under PL480 Title II. Second, my amendment will replenish PL480 Title II development funds that help meet our ongoing development programs across the globe. Third, it will shore up PL480 Title I funds that have been used as a stop gap measure to address the crisis. And finally, it will replenish the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT) so that our aid workers and development personnel can be assured of adequate resources to carry out their important, live-saving work in future crisis.

The Tsunami brought images of destruction and human suffering on a scale that is hard for many of us to imagine. Americans responded with great generosity by committing unprecedented funds through private donations. Some $50 million, I am told, has been pledged through the American Red Cross alone.

Federal workers and their cooperators in Washington and around the globe made an extraordinary effort to respond. Food resources that were pre-positioned, and even some in transit, were shifted to address this crisis. For all their hard work and creativity, I commend them.

What concerns me now, however, is how we proceed after the television networks scale back their coverage. Enormous need will remain even after the emergency is contained. It will be months, perhaps years, before rice paddies are desalinated, fishing boats are rebuilt and fishing nets are repaired. Self sufficiency will not happen over night. And while the people most directly affected by the tsunami are struggling to achieve a measure of self sufficiency, the dire need for food aid continues in places like Ethiopia and Sudan and many others. That is why I believe it is so critical that we reinforce our food aid capacity.

In his inaugural address, the President spoke forcefully about ending tyranny and spreading democracy. Everyone shares those objectives. We also know that those objectives cannot be achieved solely by force or gesture politics. They demand a commitment to diplomacy and human compassion. Adequate funding for food aid is central to that process and I invite my colleagues to join me in this effort.

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