SANREM program director addresses Congress

Dr. Theo Dillaha

Dr. Theo Dillaha

SANREM CRSP Program Director Theo Dillaha was among experts testifying in Washington July 16 at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Agriculture Subcommittee on Specialty Crops, Rural Development and Foreign Agriculture. Subcommittee Chair Mike McIntyre (D-NC) said in his opening statement at the hearing that the United States has a large commitment to delivering food aid to address the current hunger crisis around the world, but an increase in food aid is necessary. He emphasized the importance of continued agricultural research and the proper allocation of funds to enhance food production capabilities in developing countries.

In his testimony, Dillaha stated that productive farming is essential to a country’s growth, and he elaborated on a series of recommendations for short- and long-term actions. In the short term, the U.S. should assess and change policies regarding biofuel programs, facilitate the immediate provision of seeds and fertilizer for countries most affected by the food crisis by market-friendly subsidies, and review the 1986 Bumpers Amendment, which sharply restricts the use of Foreign Assistance Act funds for testing or breeding programs, feasibility studies, variety improvement or introduction, or training for production of commodities that might compete with those grown in the United States. Dillaha also recommended that the United States increase foreign agricultural assistance funds so that food-insecure countries can decrease their dependence on emergency food aid.

For the long term, Dillaha recommended that the United States assist developing countries in building the capacity to help themselves through partnerships with land-grant universities, by expanding agricultural research and education, and by restoring the agricultural development capacity of USAID.

In their testimony, Dillaha and other panel members agreed that, while the current food crisis may ease, the global food situation will be much the same in a year’s time without prompt attention to prevention efforts. Other experts on the panel were Sean Callahan of  Catholic Relief Services; Andrew Barnes of Food for the Hungry; Avram “Buzz” Guroff of the economic development organization ACDI/VOCA, and Nicholas Minot of the International Food Policy Research Institute. Their testimony was part of hearings on a foreign operations appropriation bill being considered by Congress.