The House defied a White House veto threat and voted overwhelmingly for a five-year, $306 billion farm bill Wednesday. Most of that money would go to subsidies for farmers or food stamps for the poor, but the bill also slashes funding for feeding poor students overseas.
The vote happened the same day that U.S. officials told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that sharp increases in food prices could soon swell the ranks of the world's hungry by a hundred million people.
Henrietta Fore was just back from taking the first U.S. relief flight into Myanmar. As the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, she is the nation's top foreign aid official.
Fore brought grim tidings to the Senate Foreign Relations panel: There is a race against time, she said, to get relief to Myanmar, but there are also dozens of other impoverished nations.
"We are in the midst of a global food crisis unlike other food crises that we have faced, one that is caused not simply by natural disasters, conflict or any single event such as a drought. It is not localized, but pervasive and widespread," Fore said.
Some senators, though, called the Bush administration's response inadequate. Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey pointed out that while President Bush did ask for an extra $350 million in food relief as part of the hundred-billion-dollar-plus war spending bill that Congress is about to consider, aid experts say that falls $200 million short of what's really needed to get food on the ground.
"This money is a scintilla of what we spend in a week or a month in Iraq. ... Tell me why the administration won't agree to the $200 million more?" he asked.