Engel Remarks on Food Aid

February 14, 2018

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a committee hearing on

food aid:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and thank you for calling this hearing.

“And to our distinguished witnesses: welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee. I want to welcome all of you, especially my good friend and former colleague, Secretary Glickman.  It is nice to have you here again and we’re grateful for all the witnesses’ time and willingness to share your expertise with our members.

“I’m glad we’re focusing on food aid today, because this is an effort on the Administration’s chopping block, unfortunately, like so many of our other diplomatic and development priorities.

“The Administration’s budget eliminates the Food for Peace account. I think that’s a terrible idea.  It would hurt hungry people. And it shows a total lack of understanding about why the Food for Peace program is so important to our foreign policy.

“Since 1954, Food for Peace has fed more than four billion people—that’s “billion” with a “B”—in 150-plus countries all over the world.  With our country’s tremendous blessing of agricultural resources, helping famine-stricken and malnourished people around the world is simply the right thing to do.

“Perhaps no effort better shows America’s generosity of spirit than Food for Peace. For decades, it’s been a model of what American leadership should look like. There’s also a tremendous amount of goodwill that flows from helping those in need. People who benefit from this aid understand that they have a friend in the United States—that we want people everywhere to thrive and get ahead.

“Well-fed populations are healthier populations. Healthier populations mean stronger countries—better partners for the U.S. on the global stage.

“At a time when our standing in the world has plummeted and American leadership has taken a back seat, the idea of slashing investments in diplomacy and development, frankly, is just baffling. I think Congress should reject the proposal to eliminate the Food for Peace program. I think we should, frankly, take the Administration’s entire international affairs budget proposal and look at it very carefully and toss it if we have to.

“Now, does all this mean that the Food for Peace program is perfect?  Of course not. I agree with what the Chairman said about things that we need to do to make it better.

“For instance, even though it’s the largest food program in the world, Food for Peace lags behind other countries in terms of response time in crisis situations.  When we ship food from the U.S., it can slow down the delivery of assistance by as much as four months, and cost up to fifty percent more than sources of food closer to those in need.

“So, we need to take stock of what’s working and what isn’t, so that we can streamline and modernize this effort. We need to strike the right balance among a number of factors: quickly getting food, as the Chairman pointed out, to those who need it most; making good use of the taxpayer’s dollar; and keeping the American farmer at the center of things when it comes to how we source food aid.

“So, we do need to modernize the Food for Peace Act but we must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. So, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses. I know you all have a wealth of ideas that will help us improve this program and policy going forward.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.”

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