Congress Calls for Action on Food Crisis

In hearings, a Senate committee urged an integrated approach to food policy.

By + More

"Tell me why the president won't agree to the $200 million supplemental request," Casey said to USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore, noting that the request represented "a scintilla" of what the government is spending in Iraq each month. "I wish that the actions by the administration would match the urgency and the gravity of the human misery we are seeing."

Another point of contention: whether U.S. aid can be used to buy crops from local markets, rather than from American farmers. Bush has asked that a quarter of all aid money be used to buy food in the areas where it is needed, which many aid organizations say is more efficient and cost-effective. A 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that more than half of all U.S. food aid money is spent on transportation and administration, since most food aid has to be shipped thousands of miles from American ports to its final destination. But Congress has balked. The final version of the farm bill, which was recently approved by a congressional committee and is awaiting a formal vote, would authorize the U.S. to purchase $60 million of local food—"a drop in the bucket," according to one witness.

During this morning's hearing, some senators suggested that Congress should revisit this policy on its own, apart from the farm bill.