A group of policy experts says the United States can do more to respond to global food shortages, and has released a report to Congress proposing steps aimed at alleviating world hunger.  VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

The report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan, nonprofit research and policy organization, warns that the current global food crisis has grave implications for economic growth, international security and social progress in developing countries.

The organization's president, John Hamre, released the report at a Capitol Hill forum Tuesday, and called on the United States to play a key role in formulating a response. "Nothing would help us more as a nation to reclaim the honor and dignity and the pride we have in ourselves and the confidence of the rest of the world than to tackle a problem like hunger," he said.

The report proposes that the United States double the annual commitment to emergency food aid from $1.6 billion to $3.2 billion.  It calls for modernizing the emergency assistance to improve the speed and flexibility of the U.S. response.

The report also recommends that Washington pursue trade and foreign policies that promote agriculture in developing countries, and work to ease export bans and restrictions that have contributed to higher food prices.

Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed the report.  But he suggested that finding political support for funding the proposals could be a challenge amid increasing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and record budget deficits.

"I do think that in terms of principle, there is a great deal of bipartisan commitment.  The dollars are probably the more difficult aspect of it," he said.

The administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Henrietta Holsman Fore, also spoke at the forum and called for a long-term strategy to deal with global food shortages. "Providing food aid year after year at an increasingly higher cost while under-investing in longer-term solutions is inefficient and does not do enough to reduce the uncertainty and suffering facing millions of chronically-vulnerable people each day around the world.  We need to better understand when to deploy what collection of tools where the conditions are appropriate for growth-oriented agriculture versus non-farm employment or safety nets," he said.

The executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, Josette Sheeran, warned of the possibility of "a wide range of human suffering" in the next three to four years if the international community does not respond to the current crisis.