WASHINGTON, DC -- Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee held a public hearing on U.S. International Food Aid Programs. USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Warshaw testified
, along with five other witnesses representing various private volunteer organizations (PVOs) and commodity groups.
“Unfortunately, despite all the efforts of the United States and other countries, there is still a significant number of people across the world that are food insecure,” said Warshaw during his opening remarks. “Therefore, I appreciate efforts by USAID and various members of Congress who are looking for ways to make food aid programs more effective, but I have serious concerns about many of the policy proposals and reforms that have been laid on the table.”
Several of the proposals seek to reduce or eliminate the use of in-kind contributions to food aid and replace them with a cash or voucher system. Warshaw highlighted recent World Food Programme and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that emphasized the lack of oversight and diversion of aid when cash or vouchers were used.
The United States has been one of the largest suppliers of food aid, providing $80 billion in food aid since World War II. “When we provide U.S. commodities to the world’s hungry, each farmer, processor, packer, handler, and cargo deliverer can feel good about the work they’re doing to help alleviate hunger,” said Warshaw. “Additionally, these U.S. commodities are distributed in bags that feature the label ‘From the American People.’ This is a clear statement of the commitment the U.S. has to fighting global food insecurity and is a symbol that is intended to help foster international good will.”
Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR) commented on the new fortified rice developments for food aid and questioned whether the rice industry would be able to provide this product now. Warshaw enthusiastically replied that the rice industry can provide a fortified product and in fact has been providing enriched rice to the domestic market and some export markets for decades.
Responding to Congressman Ralph Abraham’s (R-LA) question about the food safety checks for U.S. rice versus other countries, Warshaw stated that the U.S has one of the world’s safest food supplies.
“In many other rice exporting countries, there are issues with water quality, storage and farming practices, unregulated pesticide and herbicide use, and little to no third party oversight of the safety of the food product. The U.S. has a strong system of objective checks that ensure the quality and safety of our products.”
Warshaw continued, “The U.S. rice industry has invested significant capital, time, and effort in being a timely and reliable supplier of food aid. Looking forward, we are developing fortified rice and rice products aimed to reduce global hunger and malnutrition, particularly in women and children. We have had great success so far but global food insecurity is a challenge we’re still facing. The continued delivery of in-kind food aid is necessary to help avoid many of these potentially serious consequences of program reforms.”