April 15, 2015

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on "American Food Aid: Why Reform Matters"

 United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Hearing: American Food Aid: Why Reform Matters
Wednesday, April 15, 2015 

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman
Opening Statement

I think people know that since 1954, U.S. international food aid programs have helped feed over three billion people and promote food security in over 150 countries.

Most U.S. food aid is provided through Food for Peace, which is currently funded, on average at $1.6 billion annually 

Over the past five years, U.S. food aid has helped 56 million people on average per year.

Today’s hearing will provide the committee with an update on the current operations of the program, including the challenges it faces while responding to increasingly dangerous emergencies.

This increasingly challenging global environment has illustrated to Congress the need for greater flexibility in how Food for Peace operates.

The law requires 100 percent of food aid to be U.S.-purchased commodities and 50 percent of that to be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels.

While recent reforms in the Farm Bill provide some administrative funds to be used for such things as locally and regionally purchased food aid or food vouchers, this limited flexibility must be executed in tandem with U.S.-purchased commodities.

The cargo and commodity preferences create inefficiencies that undermine our ability to get maximum impact in addressing poverty and suffering from our U.S. food aid dollars.

In some cases where U.S. national security interests are at stake, like in Syria and other regions in conflict, U.S. food aid plays an important role in U.S. policy and engagement, and these interventions would not be possible if we relied on U.S.-purchased commodities.

Increasing flexibility in the Food for Peace program would provide up to $440 million in savings, allowing the U.S. to reach as many as 12 million more starving people, up to two and a half months faster, in some cases.

Again, I think this just jumps out at us that self-imposed limitations…and the special interests that capture this program cause people around the world to starve.

While the impact of reforming U.S. food aid overseas is profound, the domestic implications are minor, as food aid only contributes 1.41 percent to net farm income and 0.86 percent to agricultural exports.

I have joined forces with my friend and colleague, Senator Coons, by coauthoring with him the Food for Peace Reform Act.

We are seeking to increase the flexibility in our food aid programs, and are looking to our witnesses today, to illustrate why reform to the program matters.

For many around the globe we are not yet reaching but could, it is a matter of life and death.

I hope out of this hearing something is going to occur where we will do the things necessary to make sure that our U.S. dollars help those people that today, as we sit here in the comfort [of this room], are starving because of special interests here in our own nation.

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For full details on the hearing and archive footage, visit: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/american-food-aid-why-reform-matters-04-15-15.