UNION CITY, Georgia — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not the catalyst for the global food crisis currently engulfing the world, but it certainly exacerbated the issue into the global catastrophe it is today. Congress has a responsibility to stop partisan delays in food aid and other humanitarian aid that is sorely needed and move quickly to address the food crisis. The Securing Allies Food in Emergencies Act is one pivotal piece of legislation that would be highly effective in helping to tackle the issue. The SAFE Act aims to address the global food crisis, showing that the U.S. remains committed to its position as a global leader in humanitarian aid.
The Full Breadth of the Issue
If one looks back at the year 2022 alone, the number of both children and adults who were food insecure increased to 1.3 billion, which equates to a rise greater than 10% from the previous year. Estimates indicated that the number of people who are most likely to bear the brunt of acute hunger would top 220 million in early 2023. The U.S. and its global partners have faced an obvious strain on the emergency food aid programs that are in use. While the U.S. Congress had initially stepped up to provide global humanitarian aid in the wake of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, it needs to do much more.
About the SAFE Act
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) first introduced the Securing Allies Food In Emergencies Act (SAFE Act) on August 2, 2022. Its purpose at the time was to get out ahead of the looming food crisis that Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine exacerbated. The goals were to improve the timeliness, effectiveness and reach of U.S. international food assistance. On February 16, the two senators reintroduced the SAFE Act for 2023.
What the SAFE Act Aims to Accomplish
According to U.S. Senator Chris Coons, “The combination of the climate crisis, COVID-19, and Russia’s immoral invasion of Ukraine have dangerously destabilized global food markets,” He went on to say that “Passing the SAFE Act will help the United States respond more effectively to the global food crisis, averting the threat of famine and reducing the risk of food riots and instability around the globe. Congress can and should take these urgent steps to expedite and expand our international food assistance program.” This quote further drives home the fact that the SAFE Act is necessary to address the global food crisis. Specifically the SAFE Act will accomplish/address the following:
- It will require an in-depth strategy instituted by the USAID administrator to avert further exacerbation of the global food crisis.
- The Act will provide more freedom, authority and flexibility for the USAID administrator to procure food assistance for regions and localities facing the most acute shortage of food.
- It will place high priority on getting agricultural commodities to regions and localities that are currently lacking in food availability.
- It will provide the resources necessary in order to empower and support regions and localities to get procurements themselves from areas that receive support from U.S. agricultural development programs since in these areas it would not be appropriate to provide U.S. agricultural commodities directly.
- The Act will waive any U.S. shipping requirements that are outdated in order to eliminate unnecessary red tape that hinders the effectiveness of providing timely food aid. Additionally, this will result in U.S. taxpayers saving money in the amount of $80 million while simultaneously enabling the USAID to stretch American aid dollars further.
- Any countries on the Department of State’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list such as Russia and China will not be allow to provide food aid.
The global food crisis has intensified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather conditions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The SAFE Act will enable the U.S. and its allies to address the food crisis more effectively and would specifically target areas where food is unavailable while empowering USAID to develop a strategy that will prevent the food crisis from spiraling further out of control. All of this while simultaneously waiving shipping requirements and saving money for the U.S. taxpayer, which also enables USAID to stretch food aid dollars further. This bill will help stem the tide of this food crisis and send a message that the U.S. will continue to be a global leader in the fight against global poverty.
– Gary Williams