12.02.15

Chairman Roberts Examines U.S. Agriculture Programs Combating Global Hunger

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today held a hearing on the agriculture industry’s role in combating global hunger.

“Tonight, one in nine people – that’s over 800 million worldwide – will go to bed hungry,” said Chairman Roberts. “Around the world impoverished regions are facing increasing challenges in feeding their people – from political unrest and social conflict like what we face in places like Yemen or Syria, to weather driven crises like what we currently see in East Africa.

“Show me a nation that cannot feed itself, and I’ll show you a nation in chaos. American farmers and ranchers have a deep understanding of the need to feed a troubled and hungry world. 

“I am proud of the critical role our agriculture has played, and will continue to play, in combatting global hunger. Farmers and ranchers in Kansas, and all across America, are committed to doing our part to feed a troubled and hungry world.”

For witness info, testimonies, and to watch the hearing, click here.

The following is Chairman Roberts’ opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to order.

Tonight, one in nine people – that’s over 800 million worldwide – will go to bed hungry.  Around the world impoverished regions are facing increasing challenges in feeding their people – from political unrest and social conflict like what we face in places like Yemen or Syria, to weather driven crises like what we currently see in East Africa.

As the Chairman of this Committee, and former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I can assure you that there is no issue in global security more timely or relevant than food security. Show me a nation that cannot feed itself, and I’ll show you a nation in chaos.

American farmers and ranchers have a deep understanding of the need to feed a troubled and hungry world. 

Back in 1953, a young Kansas farmer by the name of Peter O’Brien had the idea that U.S. farmers could give aid to other countries in the form of food.

He made the suggestion at a countywide Farm Bureau meeting and eventually a resolution was accepted by both the Kansas Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The next year, a U.S. Senator from Kansas, Andy Schoeppel, sponsored a bill that was ultimately signed into law by yet another native son of Kansas, President Eisenhower. To this day, the Food for Peace Program, commonly referred to as P.L. 480, provides aid to nearly every country in the world.

While P.L. 480 is an enormous instrument in fighting hunger, it is just one tool in the toolbox of assistance.

Since 1985, the USDA has been using the Food for Progress program to help developing countries advance their own agriculture systems. By increasing productivity and expanding market and trade opportunities, countries are better able to grow economies and respond to regional crisis.

According to USDA, last year the Food for Progress program alone generated nearly 10,000 jobs and provided training to over 220,000 producers.

And then we have the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program. Or, as we say back in Kansas – the Dole-McGovern program.

Through McGovern-Dole, USDA and partners have the ability not only to provide a child with a nutritious meal for the day but also offer the opportunity to receive an education.

For instance, Hard Red Winter Wheat is currently traveling from fields in Kansas to Nicaragua, in bags like this one, to be used as part of a school feeding program to boost nutrition among preschool and primary school children between the ages of 6 and 14.

Under this Committee’s leadership, we continued to help the mission of combating global hunger by making significant, realistic, and bipartisan reforms to food aid programs in the 2014 farm bill, adding flexibility, transparency and efficiency.

The United States has proven that American agriculture plays a pivotal role in addressing food shortfalls around the world, and we must continue to consider new and innovative ways to get ahead of the growing population and production challenges.

International trade, and the role played by the United States will undeniably play a critical role in getting food to those who need it most.

It is not enough to improve the yields of small-holder farmers if there isn’t a market where it can be sold, a silo where it can be stored, or a road upon which it can be transported.

USDA has invaluable expertise in developing agricultural policy and has the capability to offer important technical assistance to nations establishing critically needed infrastructure.

The private sector also has expansive knowledge in the development of necessary value chains and new technologies that can address country specific challenges.

Our friends at USDA, along with USAID, land-grant universities, commodity organizations, NGOs and PVOs have a strong history of working together to promote an efficient and affordable food supply.

I am proud of the critical role our agriculture has played, and will continue to play, in combatting global hunger. Farmers and ranchers in Kansas, and all across America, are committed to doing our part to feed a troubled and hungry world.

I ask unanimous consent to enter statements for the record on behalf of industry stakeholders.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses. 

With that, I recognize Senator Stabenow for any remarks.  

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