Senate Foreign Relations Committee Focuses on Global Food Security

April 23, 2010 By Stuart B. Baimel

Appearing Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew and USAID Administrator Raj Shah testified about the Obama Administration’s new approach to global food security.  Dan Glickman, the Center for U.S. Global Leadership’s Chair, also testified in his role as co-chair of the Global Agricultural Development Initiative with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.  He stated that “advancing global food security will continue to be in America’s economic, security, and diplomatic interests for the foreseeable future.”

The hearing coincided with an announcement on Thursday by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner of the initial contributions to a new Global Agriculture and Food Security Program fund hosted by the World Bank Group.  The U.S. will contribute $475 million to the fund. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also pledged $30 million to the fund, in addition to contributions from the United States, Canadian, Spanish and South Korean governments.

In his opening statement, Chairman Kerry spoke about the budget, stating “this hearing comes at a moment when our International Affairs Budget is, regrettably, once again being challenged. Even in a tough budget environment, short-changing programs like these, in our judgment, will deliver little budget relief at enormous negative consequence to our global efforts.”  He went on to say that “we will fight against any efforts to reduce the President’s request for a small increase, which is essential to the transformation of our foreign policy efforts and frankly to the recalibration of the allocation of resources between defense, diplomacy and humanitarian efforts.”

Senator Lugar began his opening remarks with the observation that food security needs to play a more prominent role in overall foreign policy. He stressed the importance of a “whole of government” approach and asked the witnesses about which agency will coordinate the Feed the Future initiative.  Lew responded that Secretary Clinton had just announced two senior foreign assistance officials, one representing development and one representing diplomacy, who will be charged with coordinating the initiative.

Deputy Secretary Lew thanked Senator Kerry for his comments about the budget in his testimony, and said he viewed the International Affairs Budget as “central to our ability to accomplish our goals” in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. In his statement, he highlighted the Administration’s “smart power” approach to global food security as well as “an expansive” whole-of-government approach.  “Led by a joint team at the State Department and USAID,” he stated that “Feed the Future brings together the Department of Agriculture’s expertise on agricultural research, the U.S. Trade Representative’s efforts on agricultural trade, the Treasury Department’s close partnership with multilateral institutions, and the contributions of many other agencies, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Department of Health and Human Services.”

In his remarks, Administrator Shah noted that USAID has hired more than a dozen new Foreign Service officers with expertise in agriculture over the last year with an additional thirty hires in the process of coming on board.  He stated that Ambassador William Garvelink, Deputy Food Security Coordinator for Development, will oversee the effort at USAID and coordinate with other U.S. Government agencies. Ambassador Patricia Haslach, Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy, will lead the effort to “embed food security as a political priority in our embassies.”

Senator Menendez used his time to focus on the QDDR and expressed his impatience at the repeated delays in the release of the interim report and Congressional briefings on its contents.  Deputy Secretary Lew responded that they are “very close” to being in a position where they can brief Congress on the interim findings, but that State was still in the process of coordinating with other Administration reviews — namely the Presidential Study Directive (PSD). Lew suggested that Congress could be briefed in a few weeks. Sen. Menendez also pressed USAID Administrator Shah on when the Committee might see a written plan for the agency’s proposed Human Resources reforms.