Smith-McCollum Global Food Security Act Passes House
Legislation targets global hunger, improving agriculture
The House of Representatives last night passed bipartisan legislation to address global hunger and help the world’s poorest countries develop better agriculture. Sponsored by Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the House panel that oversees global health initiatives, along with lead Democrat cosponsor Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), HR 5656, “The Global Food Security Act,” is designed to help prevent starvation and famine, and reduce hunger and malnutrition by enabling countries to feed their own people.
“This is important bipartisan legislation which will help provide a long-term solution to global hunger by authorizing and strengthening the existing national food security program coordinated by USAID commonly known as Feed the Future,” said Chairman Smith, who has spearheaded similar U.S. international, health and nutritional initiatives throughout his career dating back to legislation he successfully offered in 1985 to restore and double the commitment to the then Child Survival Fund program to protect children who would otherwise die from preventable, curable diseases. “This program encourages self-sufficiency, and operates in targeted countries where the host governments have committed to investing in local agricultural development and undertaking reforms that allow the private sector to flourish. Its hallmarks are the building of local capacity and sustainability, linking local entrepreneurs to the global economy, while boosting transparency and accountability. The end result of this can be seen in lives saved and lives enriched. In the past year, Feed the Future has helped seven million farmers across the globe increase harvests, resulting in improved nutrition for 12.5 million children. To give one example, in Ethiopia, stunting rates were driven down by nine percent in just three years, resulting in roughly 160,000 fewer children suffering from malnutrition.”
McCollum joined Smith on the floor to support passage.
“We cannot sit by and do nothing as 800 million hungry people suffer, parents are forced to watch their children go hungry, and far too many die from malnutrition,” said Congresswoman McCollum. “Human dignity, decency, and our own national security demands that we support and sustain this important investment in agriculture development and nutrition. This bill is about partnering with hardworking farmers – who are mostly women – to make them more successful. It helps provide access to the knowledge, tools, markets, and business opportunities they desperately need. Because when a woman farmer succeeds, her children and family are healthier and more likely to succeed. I have seen the difference our investments in agriculture development and nutrition are having in developing nations. I have met women farmers who are feeding their families, sending their children to school, and investing in their communities. These investments have been proven to work, and I am glad that today we were able to do more.”
Chronic hunger afflicts over 800 million people around the world. The Smith-McCollum bill would coordinate the efforts of 11 government agencies in improving basic nutrition and reducing hunger in the poorest in 19 priority countries. The legislation authorizes the Feed the Future Initiative. It coalesces the abilities of private businesses, faith-based organizations and community-based non-profits while fostering women’s economic empowerment and building the capacity of local small farmers.
Launched by President Bush and continued by President Obama, the current U.S. food security program has been funded by Congress in annual appropriations legislation, but without official statutory authorization. The Smith-McCollum bill would permanently codify and authorize such efforts and help marshal a worldwide commitment to tackling hunger and malnutrition.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will be the lead U.S. agency, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of State, the U.S. African Development Foundation and other agencies.
Beyond its humanitarian impact, the Smith-McCollum bill also buttresses national security. A 2014 Worldwide Threat Assessment produced by the U.S. Intelligence Community stated that the “lack of adequate food will be a destabilizing factor in countries important to United States national security that do not have the financial or technical abilities to solve their internal food security problems.“ Lack of food and nutrition in nations with weak governments might embolden insurgent groups to exploit conditions and undermine and destabilize regions.”
Many groups have called for the legislation, including American Jewish World Service, Catholic Relief Services, Food for the Hungry, Lutheran World Relief, Oxfam America, Self Help Africa, Stop Hunger Now, United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, World Vision and dozens of others.
“Save the Children welcomes the leadership of Reps. Chris Smith and Betty McCollum and the House passage of the Feed the Future Global Food Security Act, and looks forward to continuing our work with Congress and the administration on this important effort for the world's children," said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children.