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Chair Jim Costa Opening Statement at Hearing “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: International Trade and Food Assistance Programs”

WASHINGTON House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Chair Jim Costa delivered the following statement at today's hearing titled “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: International Trade and Food Assistance Programs”

[As prepared for delivery]

Good morning. Thank you to our witnesses, Ranking Member Johnson, and the members of the subcommittee for convening today to discuss the international food assistance and trade programs within the farm bill. These programs are important for multiple reasons: they open and grow new markets for high quality, American food and agriculture products, they save lives, they build local agriculture and food systems in developing economies, and they strengthen foreign relations to advance shared values and security. I’ve been known to say that food security is national security and that linkage has never seemed stronger that it is today.

Unfortunately, we may be called on to do even more in the coming months as we grapple with the fallout from Putin’s war in Ukraine. We have already seen disruption of global grain and fertilizer markets, which will have significant downstream effects on countries that are reliant upon Black Sea trade. For this reason, I signed onto a letter with many of my Agriculture Committee colleagues requesting that USDA and USAID use the resources available in the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust to help address food insecurity. The Trust is one of many vital farm bill programs that I look forward to hearing about and discussing today.

American farmers and ranchers are experts at optimizing their use of land and resources. Their efficiency allows for surplus production of commodities—a benefit that many countries do not have. Though international food assistance programs only make up a fraction of one percent of our federal budget, Americans still lead global donations, sharing our bounty through Farm Bill programs like Food for Peace, McGovern-Dole, and Food for Progress.

I believe it is a moral obligation of leading nations to provide assistance to countries in need, and there are certainly many people who need help. According to USDA’s international food security assessment from last summer, the number of food insecure people in 2021 was estimated at 1.2 billion, an increase of almost 32% (291 million people) from the 2020 estimate. They estimated that much of this increase was due to persistent effects of COVID-19, along with climate-related disasters, and conflict. 

The past two years have made clear that our globally integrated food system has some cracks. And many of these vulnerabilities may worsen as climate change continues to wreak havoc on our agricultural production systems. Exchanging technical knowledge with partner countries, through initiatives such as the Farmer-to-Farmer program and the Borlaug and Cochran Fellowships, will be critical in helping food insecure nations become more efficient.

Food assistance is just one way that agriculture connects us globally. Farm bill trade promotion programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) help U.S. producers establish commercial relationships and facilitate agricultural trade. These programs and the work they support are vital to opening new markets, but they also contribute to local growth of food and agriculture supply chains. Maintaining and deepening good relationships is a vital part of engendering economic development and shared values and building future export markets for American agriculture. These two objectives, which are advanced by the Farm Bill’s Title III programs, are not mutually exclusive—they are complementary. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about how the full spectrum of Title III programs are delivering on their mission.

The witnesses on our two panels today have an impressive amount of knowledge on how Title III farm bill programs impact the world. I am excited to hear from them and have a productive discussion about what is working and how we can improve these programs.

Before the introduction of our witnesses, I’d like to recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Johnson of South Dakota, for any remarks he’d like to make.

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