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WASHINGTON, DC — International relief and development agency Oxfam America applauds Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Robert Casey (D-PA) for introducing new legislation to respond to the growing pressure that high food prices have imposed on developing countries and poor people around the world.
"Congress should take up this legislation urgently because hundreds of millions of poor people facing skyrocketing food costs need help," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. "The critical short-term funding this legislation addresses is needed, but just as important are longer-term investments to reduce the vulnerability of poor people to the kinds of food price shocks we've seen this year."
The Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act would create a new food security emergency fund for rapid response to urgent problems. In addition, the bill would authorize substantial new funding to assist developing countries in improving their agricultural infrastructure, thus averting future crises and helping farmers in developing countries—many of them among the poorest people in the world. The bill specifies new investments in research and would encourage new education partnerships to promote agriculture research and development. Perhaps most important, the bill would require a government-wide strategy by creating a new position in the White House to oversee and coordinate action, while emphasizing the central role of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in managing America?s strategy to address food insecurity.
"Congress is understandably concerned about the US financial crisis, but it cannot turn a blind eye to the millions of people who are at terrible risk of hunger and disease as a result of the food crisis," said Offenheiser. "Support to assist poor people is a bargain for the money. It provides taxpayers returns in the form of economic growth and political security."
The Lugar-Casey Global Food Security Act is an important step in the short-term and will help equip the US government to save lives and address the urgent global food crisis. But it cannot be a substitute for fundamental reform of American global development tools. The ultimate path to food security rests on effectively fighting global poverty and right now, the US foreign aid system is falling short on this fight. The next President and Congress must tackle fundamental reform of the law, strategy, structure and practice of US programs to fight global poverty.