Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
Subcommittee Reviews Food Aid Programs
\WASHINGTON, D.C. – Subcommittee Chairman William Jenkins today chaired a hearing of the Subcommittee on Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture Programs to review food aid programs. The hearing provided an opportunity for Members to review the needs, capabilities and obstacles facing foreign food aid assistance programs. The Subcommittee heard from three panels of witnesses including representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), non-governmental food assistance organizations and commodity groups.
The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, 2002 Farm Bill and permanent legislation authorizes food aid programs including P.L. 480 Food for Peace, Food for Progress, the Emerson Trust and an international school feeding program. These programs provide agricultural commodities to support economic development or provide emergency relief to countries in need of food assistance. The U.S. enjoys the safest, most abundant food supply in the world and is the largest contributor to global food aid worldwide.
“It is important for members of this Subcommittee to understand how vital international food aid is in promoting goodwill to countries that need food. It is also important to understand that food aid is important to American farmers who produce the food, American businesses who process, package and transport the food, and the American private voluntary organizations who are on the ground making sure the food goes to those who really need it,” said Subcommittee Chairman Jenkins.
Earlier this year, USAID’s budget proposal included a provision that would transfer $300 million of the agency’s $1.2 billion to purchase foreign agricultural commodities in areas experiencing emergency food situations. Both Subcommittee Chairman Jenkins and Full Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte voiced concern over the proposed transfer of funds to support foreign markets. “I believe this change carries the great risk of undercutting Congressional support for food aid programs and thereby the ability to provide aid to those in need. Moving funds into foreign markets, into the pockets of U.S. farmers’ competitors in the global market, is not a good use of taxpayer money. I strongly oppose this proposal,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
Chairman Goodlatte noted that in years past, USAID food aid funding has been used in foreign markets to buy food under special circumstances. “In the rare case that American products cannot reach the hands of the recipients quickly and efficiently, I think it is acceptable, after consultation with the Congress, to use the money in local markets to ensure the aid is delivered swiftly. It is absolutely foolish to set aside a large portion of the budget for such limited occurrences,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
Concerns were also raised regarding the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) negotiations in the Doha Development Round that could change the manner in which food aid is provided.
Mr. Kirk Miller, General Sales Manager, Foreign Agricultural Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
Mr. William J. Garvelink, Acting Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, Humanitarian Affairs, United States Agency for International Development, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Sean Callahan, Vice President, Overseas Operations, Catholic Relief Services, Baltimore, Maryland
Mr. James R. Phippard, Chief Operating Officer, ACDI/VOCA, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Robert G. Zachritz, Senior Policy Advisor, World Vision, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Jim Madich, Vice President, Horizon Milling, Wayzata, Minnesota on behalf of the North American Millers Association
Mr. Bart Ruth, Past President, American Soybean Association, Rising City, Nebraska
Ms. Barbara R. Spangler, Executive Director, Wheat Export Trade Education Committee, Washington, D.C.
Mr. John Lestingi, Vice President, The Rice Company, Morganville, New Jersey, on behalf of the US Rice Producers Association and USA Rice Federation