Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Hearing: U.S. International Food Aid Programs: Stakeholder Perspectives

Sep 30, 2015

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you for being here this morning as the Committee continues its review of U.S. international food aid programs. The purpose of today’s hearing is to obtain the perspective of those producing and processing the food used in our food aid programs as well as those tasked with distributing that aid to those in need around the world.  

Today’s hearing is the third in our review.  So far, the committee has heard from agency officials charged with the administration of these important programs about their views on how the programs are working, and how they can be improved. 

Our Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture has also heard from the Government Accountability Office and the inspectors general from both USDA and USAID regarding their efforts to monitor program implementation. 

Based on that hearing, it is clear that reviews of cash-based assistance are few and far between, and that efforts have only just begun to evaluate the benefits of the flexibility provided in the 2014 Farm Bill. Those findings underscored my view that the continued push for added program flexibility is premature. 

Speaking of ongoing reform efforts, the Committee continues to seek all the facts surrounding rumored negotiations between USAID and the maritime industry regarding a potential agreement that would increase funding to participants in the Maritime Security Program in exchange for unprecedented levels of cash assistance within Food for Peace. As I am sure you are all aware, Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer and I sent letters to USDA, USAID, and the Department of Transportation’s U.S. Maritime Administration requesting documents and communications related to those negotiations. Unfortunately, we have yet to receive a substantive production of documents.  

It is my understanding that those negotiations—and until recently, discussions regarding a whole-of-government approach to global food security—have largely ignored the views of the agricultural community. That’s why I believe it is especially important that we provide a platform here today to ensure that a variety of perspectives are heard.

America’s farmers are the most productive in the world and— without question—generate the safest and highest quality food available. Their contribution has served as the backbone of these programs for the past sixty years and should not be overlooked. 
Furthermore, any review of food aid programs would be incomplete without input from those organizations carrying out the day-to-day implementation of feeding and development programs across the globe. 

Finally, given the committee’s commitment to gathering input from all segments involved in the lasting legacy of food aid, we also intend to hear from the maritime industry in a separate hearing later this fall. 

The United States has long been the leader in the fight against global hunger, and today, I look forward to learning more about the role that private voluntary organizations, agricultural processors and suppliers, and the commodity groups play in that effort. 

Again, thank you all for being here. I now yield to the Ranking Member for any remarks he would like to make.