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Ranking Member Stabenow Opening Statement at Hearing on Global Hunger

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – at today’s hearing on global hunger.   

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this important hearing.

I’d like to give a warm welcome to Krysta Harden, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.

Krysta has been a steadfast champion for America’s farmers and families. She has helped lead USDA’s efforts to implement the 2014 Farm Bill and has done an excellent job spotlighting the leadership and contributions that women are making in food and agriculture in this country – and throughout the world.

In August of 2014, Deputy Secretary Harden joined Senators Klobuchar, Heitkamp, Cantwell, Hirono, and me on the first ever all women’s Senate delegation trip to Africa.

Our time in Africa strengthened my appreciation of our country’s commitments to helping fight global hunger and food insecurity – as well as our efforts to help empower women—who represent the majority of all farmers in Africa.

Additionally, Senators Leahy, Brown, and I – alongside other colleagues – had the opportunity a few years ago to see the McGovern-Dole school feeding programs in action when we visited Haiti after its devastating earthquake.  This program was providing children with their only meal of the day. And it sent a powerful message to Haitian families about American values.

Tragically, today, nearly 800 million people across the world are affected by hunger and poverty.

Compounded by a growing population, climate change, and strains on our natural resources – we face a significant challenge of how to best feed and sustain a growing world.

This has also become a significant global security issue.

As we look at the crises around the world today – whether it’s a prolonged drought in east Africa or severe flooding in Bangladesh – our emergency food aid programs are vital for so many. 

It is in those moments of crisis that the United States has a proud legacy of extending a compassionate hand.

The Food for Peace program has become one of the most extraordinary partnerships to help alleviate hunger and suffering around the world.

In fact, the story of Food for Peace has been a story of partnerships throughout its history: partnerships between American farmers and those in need; the U.S. government and on the ground volunteer organizations; and finally, Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

We are proud of this record. And at the same time, we know that with new challenges come new responsibilities to make our international food aid programs even more effective.

During the Farm Bill, Senator Roberts and I brought together a broad coalition to reform food aid while honoring the traditional partnerships that keep this program strong.

The Farm Bill made permanent the Local and Regional Procurement Program and gave additional flexibilities for Food for Peace to address hunger wherever and whenever it exists.

Taken together, these changes represented the most significant reforms to our food aid programs in more than 50 years.

Our long-term goal, however, should be to reduce the need for emergency food aid by focusing on achieving global food security through advancements in nutrition and the long-term productivity of agriculture.

New agricultural technologies provide a platform for rural communities to create stable food sources for families and economic independence.

We must invest in the technologies, people, and infrastructure both here and abroad that support the growth of sustainable agricultural production.

By doing this, we also invest in our own security.

Achieving global food security is not only the right thing to do—it’s the smart thing to do. A food secure world is a safer and more secure world.

Freedom from hunger is a basic right for all humans. And those of us in agriculture have a commitment to upholding that covenant.  

Mr. Chairman – again I thank you for holding this important hearing and look forward to working with you and members of the Committee on these important issues that we both agree need to be addressed.

Thank you.