From Chairman’s Conaway’s opening remarks, Committee on Agriculture Hearing: The Next Farm Bill: The Future of International Food Aid and Agricultural Development,
June 7, 2017
…(T)he administration’s budget proposal…calls for drastic cuts to international food aid programs and the elimination of funding for both the McGovern-Dole and Food for Peace Programs.
I know we will hear from several of you today about the shortsightedness of such a proposal. I tend to agree. Americans are big hearted folks who love seeing the U.S. flag on a donated bag of rice.
As my colleague Chairman Aderholt noted, there should be no shame in using taxpayer dollars to buy American food from American farmers to send overseas to those who literally have nothing else to eat—especially when the proposed alternative, providing cash-based assistance, can result in hard-earned taxpayer dollars being misappropriated or going directly to our agricultural competitors. (EMPHASIS ADDED)
International food aid programs not only contribute jobs in the U.S. agricultural sector, but also create American jobs in the manufacturing and maritime sectors. Eliminating such programs seems contrary to the role they play in a robust “America-first” policy.
While less drastic than the proposed elimination of these programs, I also fear that continued efforts to chip away at the core of food aid programs, and to increasingly turn them into cash-based assistance programs, will ultimately erode the alliance of domestic agriculture and maritime supporters that have long advocated for these programs.
That said, I recognize, as the president does, that there are efficiencies to be gained within our food aid and ag development programs. In the near term, as we approach the next farm bill, we take seriously the task of looking for ways to enhance the programs in a way that will build consensus and support for their ongoing role in American philanthropy and U.S. agriculture.
Finally, while there will always be emergency needs, the budget constraints we face are real. In the long run, these constraints will require us to increasingly focus on helping other countries make the structural changes needed to better assist their own populations.