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President Bush Offers $770 Million For Food Crisis

President Bush Discusses Food Aid; Offers US$770 Million For Food Crisis

THE PRESIDENT: In recent weeks, many have expressed concern about the significant increase in global food prices. And I share this concern. In some of the world's poorest nations, rising prices can mean the difference between getting a daily meal and going without food.

To address this problem, two weeks ago my administration announced that about $200 million in emergency food aid would be made available through a program at the Agriculture Department called the Emerson Trust. But that's just the beginning of our efforts. I think more needs to be done, and so today I am calling on Congress to provide an additional $770 million to support food aid and development programs. Together, this amounts to nearly $1 billion in new funds to bolster global food security. And with other food security assistance programs already in place, we're now projecting to spend nearly -- that we will spend nearly $5 billion in 2008 and 2009 to fight global hunger.

This funding will keep our existing emergency food aid programs robust. We have been the leader for providing food to those who are going without in the past, and we will continue to be the leader around the world. It will also allow us to fund agricultural development programs that help farmers in developing countries increase their productivity. And of course this will help reduce the number of people who need emergency food aid in the first place.

As America increases its food assistance, it's really important that we transform the way that food aid is delivered. In my State of the Union address this year, I called on Congress to support a proposal to purchase up to nearly 25 percent of food assistance directly from farmers in the developing world. And the reason you do that is, in order to break the cycle of famine that we're having to deal with too often in a modern era, it's important to help build up local agriculture. I ask Congress to approve this measure as soon as possible. It's a common sense way to help deal with food emergencies around the world.

Other countries have a role to play as well. America is in the lead, we'll stay in the lead, and we expect others to participate along with us. We're working with our G8 partners and other developed nations to secure commitments from their governments for additional food aid.

We're also working toward the conclusion of a successful Doha agreement that will reduce and eliminates tariffs and other barriers, as well as market-distorting subsidies for agricultural goods. And the reason why getting a Doha Round done is important is it'll end up reducing the cost of food, importing food; it will make it cheaper for consumers all around the world. In other words, we want to change the system to make it easier for people to get less expensive food.

We're also urging countries that have instituted restrictions on agricultural exports to lift those restrictions. Some countries are preventing needed food from getting to market in the first place, and we call upon them to end those restrictions to help ease suffering for those who aren't getting food.

We're also urging countries to remove barriers to advanced crops developed through biotechnology. These crops are safe, they're resistant to drought and disease, and they hold the promise of producing more food for more people.

Here at home, we're working to ensure that our poorest citizens get the food they need. Since 2001, the administration in working with Congress has increased funding for nutrition assistance programs by 76 percent. We've adjusted food stamp benefits annually to cover price increases at the checkout counter. And last month the Agriculture Department made available an additional $150 million to respond to the food needs of those who depend on WIC -- the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. With this new funding, we will have increased our support for WIC by 18.6 percent this year.

The American people are generous people and they're compassionate people. We believe in a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is expected. And so therefore at home we are working to ensure that the neediest among us can cope with the rising food prices. And with the new international funding I'm announcing today, we're sending a clear message to the world: that America will lead the fight against hunger for years to come.

Thank you very much for your interest. God bless.

END 3:18 P.M. EDT

***

FACT SHEET: LEADING THE FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER

"The American people are generous people and they're compassionate people. We believe in a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is expected. And so therefore at home we are working to ensure that the neediest among us can cope with the rising food prices. And with the new international funding I'm announcing today, we're sending a clear message to the world: that America will lead the fight against hunger for years to come." -- President George W. Bush, 5/1/08

Today, President Bush called on Congress to provide an additional $770 million to support food aid and development programs. Rising prices have complicated our worldwide food assistance efforts and made it more difficult for the United States to meet its existing commitments, much less help the growing number of people who need aid. To address this problem, two weeks ago the Administration announced that about $200 million in emergency food aid would be made available through a program at the Agriculture Department called the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. This aid, along with the additional funds requested from Congress, amounts to nearly $1 billion in new funds to bolster global food security. With other food security assistance programs already in place, the U.S. is now projected to spend nearly $5 billion in 2008 and 2009 to fight global hunger.

This funding will keep our existing emergency food aid programs robust. This funding will also allow the U.S. to fund agricultural development programs that help farmers in developing countries to increase their productivity, which will help reduce the number of people who need emergency food aid in the first place.

As the United States increases its food assistance, we must also change the way food is delivered. In his 2008 State of the Union Address, President Bush called on Congress to support a proposal to purchase up to 25 percent of food assistance directly from farmers in the developing world. Congress should approve this measure as soon as possible in order to build up local agriculture and increase the ability to get goods to market.

Other countries have a role to play as well. The Administration is:

* Working with other G-8 countries to secure commitments from their governments for additional food aid.

* Working towards the conclusion of a successful Doha Round agreement, which would reduce and eliminate tariffs, other barriers, and market-distorting subsidies for agricultural goods. This would make food cheaper and more available for consumers across the world.

* Urging countries that have instituted restrictions on agricultural exports to lift these restrictions.
Urging countries to remove barriers to advanced crops developed through biotechnology. These crops are safe, they are resistant to drought and disease, and hold the promise of producing more food for more people.

Domestically, The President Is Working To Ensure That Americans Get The Food They Need

The Administration expects to spend nearly $60 billion in 2008 on domestic food assistance programs, including the Food Stamp Program that currently serves more than 26 million Americans each month. For 2008, we expect to expand the number of Americans who receive food stamp assistance to 28 million and increase the benefit level by 6.5 percent. This will add about $30 a month on average, for a family of four.

The Administration is also helping our Nation's food banks and soup kitchens by supplying $50 million worth of pork to help stock their shelves. These donations are distributed through The Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Last month, the Agriculture Department made available an additional $150 million to respond to the food needs of those who depend on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). With this new funding, the Administration will have increased support for WIC by 18.6 percent this year. These steps are to help ensure that eligible low-income women and children are able to deal with the increase in food prices.

USDA began a new initiative this year to exchange government-owned commodities for value-added agricultural products, such as the processed foods we eat, that can be distributed through USDA's nutrition assistance programs. The Administration expects to distribute about $90 million in foods under this initiative.

The Increase In Global Food Prices Results From A Variety Of Factors

Increased production of corn-based biofuels is estimated to account for only three percent of the 43 percent increase in global food prices. U.S. food prices have increased far less than global food prices and a similarly small percent of the increase is attributed to biofuels production. Without increased ethanol production, food price inflation in the United States would have been 4.25 percent over the past 12 months rather than 4.5 percent. One of the reasons U.S. food prices have increased less than global food prices is because Americans consume more processed and restaurant foods, while developing countries consume more basic commodities. The spike in commodity prices directly impacts the global food price.

Several other factors have contributed to the increase in global food prices. These include increased demand in rapidly growing emerging economies; rising energy costs, which increase the cost of agricultural production and delivering products to consumers; several years of bad weather in Australia, China, and parts of Eastern Europe, which have hit wheat harvests especially hard; export restrictions imposed by several countries, some with significant commodity stocks; and, to some extent, increased biofuel production.

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ENDS

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