Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Review of U.S. International Food Aid

Jun 24, 2015

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

For over six decades, the United States has played a leading role in global efforts to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and to enhance food security through international food aid. Today’s hearing marks the beginning of the Committee’s work to review those efforts.

As we begin this process, it is important that we start off with an overview from the top, so I am grateful that representatives from the respective agencies charged with implementing these programs were able to testify before us today.

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to grow by 30 percent—from approximately 7 billion to 9 billion people. Likewise, demand for food is projected to grow by as much as 60 percent. A significant portion of this growth will occur in some of the world’s poorest countries. These projections not only underscore the importance of reviewing the efficiency of these programs in achieving their stated objectives, but also the importance of maintaining broad support for these programs. While we rightly focus on trying to achieve global food security—ultimately eliminating the need for food aid altogether—the fact remains that hundreds of millions of people around the globe remain hungry, placing unlimited demand on food aid resources.  On behalf of the people these programs are intended to help, it is critically important that we ensure that these programs are working as intended.

Agricultural commodities grown by our farmers here at home have been a core component of U.S. international food aid programs for over 60 years now. That said, I am aware of the continued calls for additional reform to these programs—Title II of the Food for Peace Act in particular. However, I think the balance struck in the most recent farm bill shows the agricultural community’s recognition of those concerns. It is prudent that we monitor the outcome of this added flexibility over the life of the Farm Bill to get a better sense of what is working and what needs to be improved.

I fear it is shortsighted to charge ahead with efforts to transition Title II into a program virtually indistinguishable from the cash assistance programs already provided for by the Foreign Assistance Act.   This is especially the case given GAO’s concerns with the integrity of those cash-based programs, including vulnerability to counterfeiting, diversion, fraud, and misuse.

I also share similar concerns regarding negotiations that circumvent the traditional agricultural community—an instrumental part of the coalition responsible for the proud legacy of global food aid. Any additional food aid reforms should be debated in an open and transparent manner and should be debated in the context of developing the next farm bill.  I hold the same view when it comes to discussions about whole-of-government approaches to global food security; agriculture must be an integral part of those discussions.

Those advocating reform often talk about the importance of having “a variety of tools in the toolbox.” It seems to me that the current slate of international food aid programs provides just that. Today I look forward to hearing from the agency witnesses on why that may or may not be the case, and hope that each of us gain a better understanding of these important programs.

Again, thank you all for being here today, and I look forward to continuing to work with you throughout this review process.

I now yield to the Ranking Member for any remarks he would like to make.