If the government is going to engage in food aid, it can’t waste taxpayer dollars. Trump’s budget would send taxpayer funds overseas, where they would often benefit corrupt and questionable regimes. – Donny

WASHINGTON, DC — Earlier this week the House Committee on Agriculture convened a hearing on the FY2018 budget proposal from President Trump that calls for the elimination of both the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole Food For Education food assistance programs.  The slate of witnesses represented almost every aspect of the food assistance delivery chain from farmer to processor, implementer (humanitarian organizations and Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs)), and the maritime industry that brings the commodities from U.S. ports to their final destinations.  

All witnesses provided compelling testimony detailing the disastrous consequences of eliminating the United States’ two most critical food assistance programs that have a 60 plus year history of success in saving and improving lives around the world.  

House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway (R-TX) set the tone for the hearing by laying out the challenge of recognizing that the elimination of food assistance programs “seems contrary to the role they play in a robust ‘America-first’ policy,” while also noting that there are efficiencies and reforms necessary to meet the current budget pressures.  Ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN) also noted the critical role of food aid in creating new trade markets for U.S. agriculture, explaining that “eleven of our top fifteen trading partners were once food aid recipients.” 

All witnesses were emphatic that food assistance is a win/win program, one that provides jobs and opportunities here at home while utilizing the U.S.’s agricultural bounty to save and improve lives, and help countries achieve food security and political stability.  One witness noted, “countries have fallen because of lack of food.”  Witnesses were also adamant that our food assistance and food security programs are a key component of U.S. soft diplomacy and in complete alignment with the U.S. goal of global leadership.  

Perhaps most compelling was testimony from Kansas wheat farmer, Ron Suppes, who noted that his wheat was saving lives 8,000 miles away in Africa where millions of vulnerable people are facing starvation and “gives us a reason to be proud.” 

“USA Rice has a long and successful history in food assistance and looks forward to contributing ever increasing amounts of both milled and fortified rice to these programs in the future,” said Bobby Hanks, president of Supreme Rice and chairman of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee.  “We, along with our allies in agriculture, PVOs/implementers, maritime, research institutes, and the government will continue to fight to ensure these programs are maintained and fully funded into the future.  These programs are critical to global food security and global geopolitical security.  As Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently reminded us, if goodwill programs like these are not fully funded, ‘then I need to buy more ammunition.’”

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