WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on global food security crisis and the U.S. response. The witnesses for panel one included: The Honorable Samantha Power, administrator of USAID, and The Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
On panel two, the witness included: The Honorable David Beasley, executive director of World Food Program.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“No nation on Earth has done more to reduce global hunger and stimulate agriculture-led economic growth than the United States. It was American grit and ingenuity that spurred a Green Revolution back in the 1950s and 1960s, which transformed global agriculture, reduced poverty, and ultimately saved a billion lives.
“Today, through Feed the Future, we are trying to amplify that progress by helping people increase yields, gain access to markets, and grow their way out of poverty so they can secure the food and nutrition their families need to survive and thrive.
“I am proud of this work – and the contributions Idahoans have made to it. I also am proud of the work we’ve done to get emergency food aid to people in their hour of need. Here again, no nation on Earth has been more committed to helping avert starvation.
“Food security is national security. As we saw during the Arab Spring, and in places like Sri Lanka today, hunger is a destabilizing force that brings people to the streets and sends leaders into exile.
“And so it is in our interests to respond – first by providing emergency assistance when and where it is needed most, then helping people transition away from dependence and toward self-reliance. It is in America’s best interest.
“The Global Food Security Act provides a roadmap for this. I have joined forces with Senator Casey to reauthorize it this year, and look forward to working with our colleagues to ensure it moves quickly, seamlessly, and unburdened by additional mandates.
“It would be impossible to talk about the state of global food security without focusing on Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine.
“Let’s be clear – this isn’t a crisis. It’s a brutal, unprovoked war that has taken a massive toll not just on Ukraine and Europe, but on the entire world. In this war, Putin is using food as a weapon, with the ultimate goal of starving the world into submission.
“I just returned from Ukraine, where I saw bombed out bridges, hospitals, and churches. I saw hundreds of ambulances bringing Ukrainian soldiers and civilians to clinics, and train cars serving as surgical centers.
“I also saw evidence of a deliberate campaign to permanently destroy and displace Ukraine’s agricultural productivity, and a campaign to bend the world to Putin’s will by leveraging access to food for sanctions relief.
“The UN, including the World Food Program, must not be complicit in this campaign. They cannot continue to appease Russia in order to secure short-term, partial compliance with international humanitarian obligations.
“It is very disheartening when I hear Americans – or for that matter, anyone else – particularly those operating in the UN, suggesting Ukraine has any responsibility in this at all. This is all Putin’s. It is all Russia’s fault.
“Congress is doing its part. We’ve provided billions of dollars in assistance to stop the war and address its humanitarian impact across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Obviously, other donors need to do more.
“In the meantime, we must do everything we can to stretch U.S. aid dollars further. This includes removing U.S. cargo preference requirements on food aid that have outlived their purpose, drive up costs, and slow the delivery of life-saving food by up to 12 months.
“There are only three bulk carriers left in the U.S.-flagged fleet that carry food aid, none of which are militarily useful. To suggest that maintaining U.S. cargo preference for food aid is somehow vital to maintaining U.S. maritime security is inaccurate.
“Last year alone, cargo preference cost USAID an extra $80 million in transportation costs. Imagine all of the starving men, women, and children we could have reached with an additional $80 million.
“Hungry people can’t eat transportation costs. It’s time to end this brand of corporate welfare.
“I look forward to the testimony today, and to working with my colleagues to find practical solutions to address the biggest global food security crisis of our time.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.