Washington, D.C. — At a hearing today of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) led Members in a review of the FY 1999 Russian food aid program in light of a recent request from the Russian government for additional aid in the upcoming year.
"Providing food aid to needy countries is the right thing to do for humanitarian reasons, but it also greatly helps American producers who are experiencing their own farm crisis," Combest said. "I'm in full support of another food assistance package to Russia and I'm looking forward to hearing from Secretary Glickman in the upcoming weeks about the details and extent of the new program."
After the collapse of the Russian financial system and its poorest grain crop since World War II, in November 1998, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman signed an agreement with the Russian government to send approximately 3 million metric tons of food aid to Russia at an estimated value of approximately $1.2 billion. To date, according to a report by the Inspector General of USDA, it appears that the current food aid program has been successful and no significant problems have been found during the constant monitoring of the distribution of food throughout Russia.
"I want to commend Secretary Glickman and all of the folks at USDA who have tried very hard to make this program work in the face of the extremely difficult political and economic climate in Russia," said Ranking Member Charlie Stenholm (D-TX). "I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Glickman and Chairman Combest to ensure that the program for the coming year is a successful one."
Two weeks ago, the Russian government formally requested another substantial package of food aid amounting to over 5 million metric tons of agricultural commodities. At today's hearing, Secretary Glickman provided details regarding administration of the current program and the continuing need for assistance to Russia. Representatives from producer groups highlighted the benefits accorded to U.S. farmers and ranchers by food aid programs.
"U.S. farmers and ranchers produce the most abundant food supply in the world. While we cannot consume all that we produce in the U.S., there is an ample supply of food that is available to help other countries in need of assistance for feeding their people," Combest said. "Since its inception, the Food for Peace Program, has provided agricultural assistance to countries all over the world while at the same time expanding international trade, development and export markets for U.S. agricultural commodities."