May 23, 2008

Biden Asking the "Hard" Questions

Joe Biden on the food crisis.  I would like to think that these are the types of questions that are actually being asked in the Senate chambers but I'm politically agnostic:
The recent crisis was the result of a perfect storm of events, including record high oil prices and severe weather that cut major crop harvests in producing countries such as Australia by 40 percent.

But many factors have been obvious for years. This crisis is unacceptable morally and it is unsustainable politically and economically.
. . . . . . . . . .

We need a new approach to food policy and the global food crisis. We should start by rededicating resources and attention in four areas:

• Reinvest in agriculture development. Some have called for a ''New Deal for Global Food Policy.'' I support those calls -- what the world needs is a second Green Revolution. That means funding for innovation, research and new techniques. Unfortunately, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is cutting support for international agriculture research centers this year. This is a step in the wrong direction -- these centers are needed for a new generation of agriculture innovation.

• Make sure our institutions are organized effectively to address the food challenge. Various U.S. agencies pursue isolated agriculture strategies that do not share a common vision.

• Ask the hard questions and re-examine our own food policies. Does our current biofuels policy, which I have supported, that diverts corn from food to fuel make sense? Should we provide more flexibility to our food-aid program and allow USAID to locally purchase food abroad instead of requiring them to buy American food and shoulder all the transportation costs associated with that?

• Finally, the international community should consider a global compact on food that will eliminate crippling food tariffs affecting the poorest countries. With those countries, trade is not a matter of competition -- it is a matter of fairness. I understand that the administration is considering allowing Japan to sell its rice reserves in the open market. This is a necessary and important step, and I encourage the president to take the lead and allow this rice onto the market.

PS - As I've said before we do need a second green revolution but it needs to be markedly different than the first in its methodology.

PPS - If that "allowing Japan to sell ITS rice reserves" sentence read odd you can go here to try and understand the scale of this whole mess.

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