Videos & Speeches

Mr. President, I come to the floor this afternoon to address an issue related to hunger, a topic that is a significant component of the farm bill we are debating, and particularly to raise the topic associated with an amendment I have offered. It is amendment No. 2403.

Most of us have heard the expression, an old saying, that goes like this: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.

By teaching someone how to fish or how to grow crops, we help them provide food for themselves and for their families. The bill we are considering has funds set aside for a program called Food for Peace, Title II. They are intended to do just that, to help combat world hunger and malnutrition. We have a long history in Kansas, Senator Dole being a prime example of someone who has cared greatly about hunger not only in the United States but around the world. The funds used here in Food for Peace are very important to us, certainly as a matter of humanitarian issues, but also to the security of our country and its future.

There are funds designated within that Title II, some to be used for emergency aid and some to be used for developmental aid, the difference being the ability to respond to an immediate crisis or disaster, and other funds, the developmental aid, to be used to improve the chances that crisis never occurs.

The question I want to raise with my colleagues here in the Senate is how do we allocate the amount between emergency food aid and the amount of money we use to teach folks the skills necessary to help them survive when disaster strikes? We are not talking about any new spending, any new money; we are simply trying to address the issue how do we allocate what amount has already been decided upon by the committee.

I have been to Darfur, for example, spent time in Sudan, and saw the efforts by many to keep people from starving. Those are very important. I am thankful for the generosity of Americans, both as charitable organizations and as taxpayers, who provide emergency food assistance to these people. We never want to have the kind of suffering we see there and other places around the world.

But I am concerned about the allocation that is included in this bill and I have introduced an amendment to ensure that at least 20 percent of Food for Peace, the Title II funds, is available each year for prevention-based programs that reduce hunger in poor, crisis-prone communities. If we can prevent the need for emergency food assistance and help more people gain the skills needed for their lifetime, then we should do that. That is what this amendment is intended to do.

The legislation we are considering significantly reduces the minimum amount of funding for developmental programs that equip vulnerable people around the world to feed themselves. The farm bill, this farm bill we are debating, reduces by nearly 40 percent the amount of funds that would be used for the important work of development aid. Instead, it directs those dollars to emergency food aid. The amendment I am offering would raise the minimum amount that would be spent on developmental programs by 5 percent so we can prevent circumstances where people are starving and need that emergency aid.

This has been an issue we have worked on for a long period of time. This is my third farm bill as a Member of Congress. In the 2008 farm bill, we created a lockbox, an amendment I offered that was included in the 2008 farm bill, that set aside about $450 million for purposes of developmental aid, again trying to make certain we have the resources in place to reduce the chances we are going to need emergency aid. It is true that many countries have a high concentration of malnourished children, and subsistence farming usually goes hand in hand in those circumstances.

Affected by droughts and crop failures, eroding soils, lack of sustainable income, these populations are short of food several months of the year and they oftentimes need emergency food aid as a result. As a consequence of that circumstance, even though Title II emergency food aid programs are intended to be short-lived, lasting between a few months maybe up to a year, usually most emergency food aid is directed to the same areas, year after year, because of the continuing need. It is a reoccurring need, in fact, so year after year we are trying to provide emergency food aid to the same populations and the same areas and the same countries.

My point is we would be wiser in spending our dollars by trying to reduce that reoccurring starvation, that recurring need, that lack of food, because of the amount and length of a food crisis and the need to stretch our taxpayer dollars as far as possible. Because using food aid more effectively is the key to success, the 2008 farm bill assured that a portion of that food aid would be combined with technical assistance, training, and business development to boost agricultural productivity, conserve natural resources, link farmers to markets, and improve child nutrition, incomes, and diets.

That lockbox set aside about $450 million. It is expected, if this bill were fully funded, that these millions are nearly now $100 million less. So we are moving in the direction of providing a lot less developmental aid. In fact, in the 1970s when this program was amended and altered, 75 percent of Title II money, of Food for Peace money, was set aside for developmental aid. Over time, that amount has been reduced, time and time again. Through economic empowerment, improved infrastructure, watershed innovations, these programs in developmental aid help protect and safeguard against the need for emergency aid. Providing a consistent and adequate level of funding for prevention-based programs has been proven to work.

For example, in Haiti, World Vision has been implementing a 5-year multi-year assistance program, supported by developmental aid funding. The central plateau region of Haiti has historically suffered from lack of adequate food, causing extremely high levels of poverty and stunting among children under 2 years of age. World Vision has worked with clinic and community health workers through a mobile clinic strategy to provide nutritional and primary health care support to mothers and children. During their last national nutrition survey, large parts of that central plateau moved from red and yellow, crisis and severe insecurity areas, to green, indicating the investment in preventing malnutrition using the nonemergency programs is an effective and worthwhile investment in fighting ongoing hunger and preventing additional use of emergency funds down the road.

In Haiti we see the example of using the prevention dollars to reduce the need for disaster or crisis dollars. Title II prevention-based programs are implemented by private, voluntary organizations and co-ops. They are supported, begun, by the American people. They have regular audits and oversight. We are talking about organizations such as World Vision, as I mentioned, Catholic Relief Services, Food for Hunger, Mercy Corps, Congressional Hunger, the United Methodist Committee. These are folks who are engaged day in, day out, year in, year out, in trying to prevent hunger from occurring or the circumstances which create hunger in a community from occurring. The inability to plan and predict the uncertainty of the amount of money that would be available by what we do each year in appropriations and what we do every few years in a farm bill makes their job much more difficult. So the consistency of having the resources available to fight and the need to fight the circumstances that create the need for crisis intervention is something that is important, as is the certainty that can come from knowing there will always be this certain amount of money available for prevention.

Reasonable levels of food aid are important in both the urgent needs. There are going to be crises. Certain things happen--floods, natural disasters occur. We know we need to be able to respond quickly. But we also know we need to be able to reduce the incidence of hunger occurring time and time again in certain areas of the world. With this amendment, Title II will still largely be used for emergencies but will increase by a modest amount the funding for developmental programs that helps eliminate the need for that emergency assistance down the road. I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to support this amendment.

I know this has been a significant issue within the Senate Committee on Agriculture and I appreciate their consideration of this topic. I commend the chairperson, Senator Stabenow, and the ranking member, my colleague from Kansas, Senator Roberts, for their tremendous efforts trying to bring to the Senate a farm bill that meets both the needs of agricultural producers and the people they feed. I offer my sincere appreciation to both those Senators and other members of the Senate Agriculture Committee for their work.

I particularly wish to express my gratitude for the Senator from Kansas, Mr. Roberts, for his continuing involvement in agriculture throughout his time as a Member of the House, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, now the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. His efforts on behalf of the folks back home as well as around the world are greatly appreciated by me.

Again I ask my colleagues in the Senate to support an adequate portion of the Food for Peace resources being used to stave off reoccurring food crises, rather than just reacting to them.

I yield the floor.