News and Information from Around the Wheat Industry


Speaking of Wheat

“Locks and dams on the Lower Snake River and the Columbia River provide essential infrastructure for moving U.S.-grown wheat to high-value markets around the world. We cannot overstate the positive value they create for U.S. farms, [the] economy of the Pacific Northwest and far beyond.” – From USW letter to House subcommittee hearing on the Columbia Snake River System

Happy Chinese New Year!

The U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Beijing office sent the digital “Happy Chinese New Year” card at the top of the page. We all hope “The Year of the Dragon” is safe and prosperous for the U.S. friends we represent, for our customers, and for our USW colleagues!

Past Chair Brian O’Toole Honored

Brian O’Toole, a past USW chairman and a partner in the sixth-generation T.E. O’Toole Farms has been named to the North Dakota Agricultural Hall of Fame. O’Toole served for 12 years on the North Dakota Wheat Commission, chaired the North Dakota Crop Improvement and Seed Association. He served for 16 years at the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Ore. During his years of service, O’Toole promoted North Dakota and U.S. wheat on trade missions to 23 countries. He has received Outstanding Young Farmer, Master Farmer, and Premier Seed Grower Awards. Congratulations, Brian, and thank you for your service! Read more here.

Brian O'Toole with Japan Flour Millers Association member.

Then USW Chairman Brian O’Toole presented this gift from U.S. wheat farmers to the Japan Flour Millers Association in 2015.

Winter Wheat Serves Conservation and Food Security

Kansas Wheat shared information about the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) is advocating to officially classify intentionally seeded winter wheat as a “cover crop” under USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other “climate-smart” programs, while not impacting its eligibility as a harvestable cash crop insurable through federal programs. “Climate-smart” activities like cover crops help farmers continue to be the best stewards of their lands, but winter wheat has been overlooked as a vital tool in both conservation and food security.

NAWG Recruiting Communications Professional

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) has a job opening for Director of Communications and Partnerships. The position’s main role is to oversee all media requests, publish the weekly newsletter and monthly podcast, communicate conference responsibilities, and help cultivate industry partnerships. Applications need to be submitted to [email protected] by Feb. 14, 2024.

February Cereal Sciences Events Calendar

Dr. M. Hikmet Boyacioglu of KPM Analytics compiles a listing of noteworthy worldwide conferences, expos, symposiums, and other events for the grains, milling, and baking industries. Visit to download the February calendar and future posts.

NCI Announces Leadership Changes

The Northern Crops Institute (NCI) named Technical Manager David Boehm and Program Development Manager Dr. Casey Peterson as interim co-directors. The two will fill the role of Mark Jirik, who announced in December that he would step down after nearly six years heading the institute. The NCI and NDSU will begin their search for a permanent NCI director this spring. The change in leadership comes as the NCI is preparing to move into its new home at the Peltier Complex on the campus of North Dakota State University. The NCI and NDSU will begin their search for a permanent NCI director this spring. “Both David and Casey know the organization very well and will do a great job of leading the organization until a national search can be concluded,” said Matt Swenson, vice chair of the Northern Crops Council, a member of the North Dakota Oilseed Council and member of the interim search committee. 

U.S. Miller Supports Soft Red Winter Wheat Development

U.S. Wheat was pleased to participate in the “Double Crop Farmers’ Forum” sponsored by the Illinois Wheat Association and the Illinois Soybean Association Feb. 5, 2024. At the meeting, the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences announced that Siemer Milling Company, Teutopolis, IL, made a major gift to the college’s Department of Crop Sciences to, in part, fund an endowed chair in wheat breeding. Professor Jessica Rutkowski, the University wheat breeder, will be the first to hold this chair. Illinois farmers annually produce more soft red winter wheat than any other state. To see how Siemer Milling ensures the highest quality wheat for its grist, watch this video.

Group of people in front of a large room.

Announcing the Siemer Milling Company gift at the Double Crop Farmers’ Forum in Mt. Vernon, Ill., were (left to right) University of Illinois Dean Germán Bollero, Crop Sciences Department Head Adam Davis, President Richard Siemer, Siemer Milling Company, and Professor Jessica Rutkowski, small grains breeder and quantitative geneticist, who will hold the first Siemer Milling Company Professorship.


U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and John Boozman (R-Ark), Ranking Member, have urged USDA to use its authorities under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act to support opportunities for U.S. farmers.

In a letter to the USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Stabenow and Boozman highlighted the need to invest in trade promotion and in-kind international food assistance, both of which support American farmers and producers.

Good for U.S. Farmers

“As Congress works toward reauthorizing critical programs in the Farm Bill, we continue to hear from organizations representing the vast majority of U.S. agriculture about the need to strengthen trade opportunities, increase revenue streams, and help producers grow and thrive in a global economy,” the Senators wrote. “We believe that resources available under the CCC can support similar efforts to open access to markets and promote American-grown products abroad.”

“The letter is intended to convey the strong, bipartisan support for additional market promotion funding but also reflects the challenge of identifying new funding resources for a broader Farm Bill reauthorization,” said Tyson Redpath with The Russell Group, a bipartisan government relations firm that represents the Coalition to Promote U.S. Agricultural Trade, in which U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is a member.

“There is also bipartisan support for critical U.S. Department of Agriculture international food assistance programs,” the Senators continued. “We urge you to explore using CCC resources to advance food assistance initiatives, which will both address humanitarian needs abroad and support American farmers.”

Chinese wheat foods seminar

USW’s work providing technical support to overseas wheat buyers and end product processors like this healthy Chinese wheat food baking seminar in Taiwan is funded by export market development programs administered by USDA-Foreign Agricultural Service. Congress approves program funding through federal “Farm Bill” legislation.

Good for Importers of U.S. Wheat

“We were quite pleased to see the leaders release their letter to Secretary Vilsack,” said USW President Vince Peterson. “Our friends at the National Association of Wheat Growers are strong advocates in Congress for increased export market development program funding. And the use of CCC funds to enhance both export marketing activities and food aid programs would be to the great benefit of U.S. agriculture and the overseas wheat buyers with whom we work.”

This request from the Chairwoman and Ranking Member comes as the Committee continues working to develop a Farm Bill this year. The full text of the letter can be found here.


U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) joined the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and other agricultural organizations at a June 22 press conference introducing the “American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023,” a bipartisan effort to “keep food in America’s international food aid programs.”

U.S. Representatives Tracey Mann (KS), John Garamendi (CA), Rick Crawford (AR), and Jimmy Panetta (CA) introduced the legislation, which aims to restore the original intent of the Food for Peace program without spending additional Farm Bill resources, all while safeguarding the interests of U.S. farmers.

A fact sheet on the American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023 can be found here.

Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS) addresses the media during a June 22 press conference announcing the introduction of the American Farmers Feed the World Act 2023.

Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS) addresses the media during a June 22 press conference announcing the introduction of the American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023.

“America’s international food aid programs have enjoyed bipartisan support for more than 65 years because they are simple, effective, and they feed millions of vulnerable people around the world each year,” said Mann. “Through these programs, America fortifies our allies, counters the influence of foreign adversaries, creates new markets and trading partners, and stops wars before they start. For decades, America has purchased and donated American-grown commodities to execute our foreign assistance programs. Over time, however, transferring cash and purchasing commodities from foreign competitors with Food for Peace dollars has become the norm. This shift has diminished transparency and accountability, reduced the procurement and shipment of American-grown food for hungry people, and jeopardized more than six decades of bipartisan support for our international food aid programs. This bill puts a stake in the ground: it’s a noble thing to feed hungry people, and we should use American commodities as we do it.”

USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman provides the media with some background on the USW's work and the effort to restore U.S. farmers' role in helping feed the world.

USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman provides the media with some background on USW’s work and its support of legislation that would restore U.S. farmers’ historic role in helping feed the world.

USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman represented USW in the effort to push the legislation forward. Speaking during the press conference, he lauded U.S. wheat farmers for their long history of supporting international food assistance programs.

“American wheat farmers produce some of the best, high quality, nutritious wheat in the world and it has been a tremendous frustration to our members to see their tax dollars supporting purchases of wheat and other commodities from their global competitors in recent years,” Laudeman said. “The reforms in the American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023 will ensure that more food gets to more people in need throughout the world, without spending any additional resources. American agriculture has played a critical role in addressing global hunger going back to the beginning of Food for Peace in 1954. We are excited to see this bill restore that role as Congress has always intended.”

“The American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023 allows us, American wheat farmers, to share our production and contribute to the fight against global hunger,” said NAWG President and Oregon wheat farmer, Brent Cheyne. “This bipartisan legislation is a crucial step toward renewing the role of American agriculture in fighting global hunger. It demonstrates our commitment to providing food aid to vulnerable populations while supporting our farmers.”

The American Farmers Feed the World Act of 2023 would restore the emphasis on U.S.-grown commodities to fight global hunger, rather than using American taxpayers’ dollars to purchase food from America’s competitors. It would also restore transparency by reducing overhead costs, preserving resources to purchase life-saving food, and protecting at least 50% of the budget for purchasing U.S.-grown commodities and delivering them to the destination country.

USW Board Member Brian Linin, a Kansas wheat farmer and a member of the Food Aid Working Group, said the measure is important to those who grow wheat.

“This legislation is an opportunity to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent in a manner that truly makes an impact on global hunger,” said Linin. “Commodities produced by U.S. farmers should always be the first choice when it comes to international food aid programs.”


On June 15, a U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) representative had the opportunity to visit the World Food Prize Foundation’s “Hall of Laureates” in Des Moines, Iowa. As part of an organization working on behalf of wheat farmers, this was a time to reflect on the amazing international food legacy of the late Dr. Norman Borlaug.

In 16 years of work in Sonora, Mexico, to solve a series of wheat production challenges, Dr. Borlaug developed successive generations of wheat varieties with disease resistance, adaptation to many growing regions, and high yield potential. Combined with his later, collaborative efforts in India and Africa, Dr. Borlaug can be said to have “saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.” For this work, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

Great Agricultural Scientists

Dr. Borlaug went on to create the annual World Food Prize in 1986 to “honor the work of great agricultural scientists to end hunger and improve the food supply.” This concept expanded to include the annual Borlaug Dialogue and the Global Youth Institute.

This vital mission to “elevate innovations and inspire action to sustainably increase the quality, quantity and availability of food for all” and the World Food Prize has a permanent home in a beautifully restored Beaux-Arts building in downtown Des Moines that originally served as the city’s public library.

USW Vice President of Communications Steve Mercer toured the Hall of Laureates and shared some photos that illustrate why this remarkable center is a fitting tribute to Dr. Borlaug, World Food Prize recipients – and wheat, with which Dr. Borlaug did so much research and development.

A Moral Right

The photo at the top of this page shows a portion of the Hall’s grand entrance, where guests are greeted by quotes around the Rotunda that establish the meaning and purpose of the World Food Prize. The quote shown upholds Dr. Borlaug’s fundamental value: “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.” The stained-glass window above the staircase depicts a family in the Hellenistic Period bringing in the grain harvest.

Image of a sculpture depicting a wheat plant at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines, Iowa.

The wheat plant represented in this metal sculpture is one of four that, with rice, corn and soy, depict staple food crops. The sculptures are labeled in English and the native language of the region where each crop was first cultivated. Wheat is identified by its ancient Sumerian cuneiform symbol.


This image shows a sculpture titled "First Farmer" representing a Sumarian woman seeding or harvesting ancient grain.

“The First Farmer” sculpture represents an early Sumerian female with a digging stick, the first implement used to till the ground, with a basket for seeds or harvest.


This image shows a plaque at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates commemorating a visit to the Hall by Xi Jinping, now President of the People's Republic of China.

In 2012, then Vice President of China Xi Jinping, who had spent time in Iowa in 1985 on an agricultural research mission, addressed a ceremony at the Hall when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and China’s Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu signed a U.S.-China Strategic Cooperation Agreement.


This image is a plaque honoring World Food Prize laureate and wheat breeder Dr. Sanjay Rajaram who worked with Dr. Borlaug at CYMMIT in Mexico.

Wheat breeder Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram received the 2014 World Food Prize, the 100th anniversary of Dr. Borlaug’s birth in Iowa.  for developing 480 high-yielding and disease-resistant wheat varieties grown on more than 58 million hectares in 51 countries. As Dr. Borlaug’s successor at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, the late Dr. Rajaram is the only wheat breeder who has received the World Food Prize.

A visit to this impressive place is highly recommended. To read more about Dr. Borlaug’s life and work, USW recommends this resource from the University of Minnesota: “The Significance of Borlaug.”


U.S. wheat farmers have long played a major role in the fight against world hunger, which is why the U.S. Wheat Associates’ (USW) Trade Policy Team has been helping push for changes to the international food assistance programs under the 2023 Farm Bill. Among other things, proposed changes would reinstate the Food for Peace program’s original intent to allow U.S. farmers to share their harvest to fight global hunger. Changes would also halt the use of America taxpayer dollars to purchase food from competitors of U.S. agriculture. In the video below, USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman provides an overview of USW’s efforts . . .


Last month, World Food Program USA reported that in 2022, for the third consecutive year, “the U.S. shipped over 1 million tons of wheat to global hunger relief efforts. The 1 millionth ton of wheat was loaded aboard the African Halycon cargo vessel and left Washington state on Saturday, November 26.”

As that shipment of donated U.S. soft white (SW) arrives in Yemen this month, USAID has issued two new food aid tenders for about 170,000 metric tons of U.S. hard red winter (HRW) to be donated to Ethiopia.

Six Years of Drought

“Years of drought in the Horn of Africa has created a serious food insecurity situation in Ethiopia and other countries,” said Peter Laudeman, Director of Trade Policy with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). “The donated wheat will be distributed to local flour mills then to the Ethiopian people.”

A large portion of U.S. food aid is managed by USAID’s Food for Peace office primarily as emergency food assistance. USAID purchases U.S commodities at market price and donates them to meet the immediate nutritional needs of those facing hunger. In other cases, USAID will purchase and donate local or regionally grown commodities or provide market-based food vouchers and cash.

Right Food at the Right Time

The type of assistance varies based on local circumstances and needs. More than 541,000 metric tons of HRW wheat was donated to Ethiopia in 2022 and almost 490,000 metric tons of SW was donated to Yemen last year. These two wheat classes best meet the preferences for Ethiopian and Yemeni wheat food products.

Compared to commercial U.S. wheat sales to date in 2022/23, food aid is the fourth largest destination for HRW, the fifth largest destination for SW, and the seventh largest destination for total U.S. wheat sales.”          – USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford

U.S. wheat farmers have been partners in U.S. international food assistance programs for more than 60 years and take pride in sharing their harvest with populations that need it most.

“Those of us in the U.S. food and agriculture community talk all the time about feeding the world,” Laudeman said. “I think these humanitarian, international programs really resonate with farmers.”

Ron Suppes on a food aid monitoring visit to Kenya and Tanzania.

“Farmers are unique stakeholders in the international food aid conversation, and we’ve been loyal partners and advocates of these programs since they started. I want to see us continue our trend of excellence in providing food aid to the countries that need it most,” said Kansas wheat farmer and past USW Chairman Ron Suppes (center) in Congressional testimony after visiting Kenya and Tanzania on a trip to monitor U.S. wheat food aid programs in 2017. Mike Shulte (second from right), executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, also made the trip.

Big Hearts, Abundant Harvests

People in the U.S. have big hearts and genuinely see a need to step up to the plate when there are populations around the world that are experiencing hunger, whether that’s due to drought in Ethiopia or conflict in Yemen, or any of the other countries that the U.S. has sent aid to,” USW Vice President of Policy Dalton Henry told the World Food Program USA in December. These shipments show “the generosity of U.S. farmers, as they produce an abundance of commodities that can be shared around the world,” Henry said.

USW and the Food Aid Working Group, a joint working group between USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers, are proud of the wheat provided through these food aid programs and believe that commodity donation is an effective portion of the whole effort.


The United States sends more international food aid to those in need than any other country. U.S. food aid programs are managed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and include either commodity, cash or food voucher donations. U.S. wheat is typically the commodity utilized the most through in-kind donations.

U.S. Food Aid Programs

The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) coordinates the Food for Progress program, which prioritizes countries in need annually. Through the program, the USDA purchases U.S. commodities to donate to priority developing countries where the commodity is sold to support agricultural development projects in those countries.

However, most U.S. food aid is operated by USAID’s Food for Peace office. Title II of the Food for Peace Act is primarily an emergency food assistance program. USAID purchases commodities for Title II from the United States at market price and donates them to meet the immediate nutritional needs of those facing hunger. In other cases, USAID will purchase and donate local or regionally grown commodities or provide market-based food vouchers and cash. The type of assistance varies based on local circumstances and needs.

Currently, the two largest recipients of wheat under the Food for Peace program are Ethiopia and Yemen. Ethiopia receives U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat, while Yemen receives U.S. soft white (SW) wheat, as these two wheat classes best meet the local demand.

USAID programs using SW wheat are most important to the Pacific Northwest, including Idaho. Wheat donations to Yemen represent approximately 30% of all U.S. wheat food aid donations. Although supplies have been tight for marketing year 2021/22 due to weather, the Pacific Northwest has remained a consistent supplier of food aid to Yemen when it is most in need.


Under USAID’s food aid programs, cash and vouchers represent most of the aid provided, surpassing in-kind commodity donations in recent years, which account for 40% of aid. USAID’s justification for this preference is that supplying cash and vouchers is more cost-efficient than shipping commodities.

This leads to another challenge in the U.S. food aid programs. Cargo preference policies currently require that 50% of food aid be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels, imposing additional costs on these programs. A study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) states that cargo preference requirements on shipping commodities for food aid increased costs by about 23%, or $107 million, from 2011 to 2014.

As a result, this requirement limits the amount of funding spent on purchasing U.S. commodities and reduces the amount of food aid that reaches those most in need. However, the costs of cargo preference policies were once offset by a reimbursement program from the maritime administration. This allowed the benefit of maintaining a U.S.-flagged vessel fleet for the maritime industry while keeping more funding in USDA and USAID food aid programs. With the elimination of these reimbursements, the additional costs impact the amount of commodities purchased for food aid programs.

Today’s Crisis and Tighter Wheat Supplies

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started a ripple effect of catastrophic events in the Black Sea region. The unjust attack on Ukraine and its people has increased the risk of food insecurity globally as many countries heavily rely on low-cost wheat from this region. Ports along the Black Sea in Ukraine have remained closed due to these needless attacks, although Russia has continued to export. With Ukrainian ports closed, some European countries, notably Romania, have been helping Ukraine export its grain through its ports.

The Black Sea region supplies around 30% of the world’s wheat exports. Many countries that depend on this region to meet their wheat demand are questioning where they can import wheat from while facing significantly higher costs. The European Union, United States, Canada and Australia are expected to pick up much of the demand but with limits. Although India increased its exports at the start of the crisis, helping meet global demands, India recently announced it would restrict wheat exports over concerns domestic wheat production will not be as high.

The U.S. Wheat Industry’s Commitment

As food costs continue to rise, the impact of a global pandemic continues, and now a war in an important wheat production region will likely push more people into food insecurity across the globe. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the Food Aid Working Group (FAWG), a joint working group between USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), are proud of the wheat provided through these food aid programs and believe that commodities should be kept in these programs. The U.S. wheat industry is committed to food assistance that impacts the most vulnerable populations to provide food security.

By Shelbi Knisley, USW Director of Policy 


U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) thanks National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) President Nicole Berg for highlighting the vital role of international food aid programs and export market development programs to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. Berg, a wheat farmer from Paterson, Wash., testified on April 6 at the subcommittee’s hearing on the 2022 Farm Bill. Her testimony focused on the Title III programs: international food aid and agricultural trade promotion.

In her testimony, Berg described how food aid helps stabilize economies and populations impacted by climate change, famine, and war. She also reinforced the critical role trade promotion programs play in sharing the abundance of U.S. agriculture across the world.

USW is a cooperator with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program. Berg noted that while these programs benefit U.S. agricultural producers and their overseas customers, program funding has been static for over 15 years. She highlighted a study that concluded that doubling annual MAP and FMD funding would incentivize private industry to increase their investments by 50%, creating yearly increases in agricultural exports by $4.5 billion. The Title III programs are essential to building trust with buyers and end-users, Berg told the member of Congress.

Food Aid Will Be Needed

“While there is still uncertainty about how the Russian invasion of Ukraine will impact world markets, we know that the invasion will exacerbate global food insecurity,” Berg said.

Wheat makes up the largest volume of in-kind U.S. food aid. In her written testimony, Berg said the looming humanitarian crisis from the Russian invasion of Ukraine will need U.S. food aid programs to curb the effects of hunger.

“Our food aid programs are the best suited for U.S. wheat to help support the humanitarian needs of those involved,” Berg said. “As the subcommittee continues to evaluate the 2018 Farm Bill programs, our food aid programs must receive continued support, and the MAP and FMD programs dollars must be enhanced to support cooperator needs.”

People standing near bags of U.S. wheat donated by International food assistance in Kenya.

In 2019, NAWG President Nicole Berg, center in blue shirt, witnessed the life-changing efforts of international food aid on a visit to Kenya and Tanzania. At the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, the World Food Programme (WFP) was feeding 98% of the more than 200,000 residents from nine countries. Over half of their food supplies, including wheat, comes from the United States. A man named Nelson told Berg that they were always happy with the high quality of the U.S. food they received, especially due to the quality of wheat flour.

From their offices on Capitol Hill, NAWG is the primary policy representative in Washington D.C. for wheat growers, working to ensure a better future for America’s growers, the industry and the general public. NAWG works with a team of 20 state wheat grower organizations to benefit the wheat industry at the national level. NAWG staff is in constant contact with state association representatives, NAWG grower leaders, Members of Congress, Congressional staff members, Administration officials and the public.

Read Berg’s full testimony here.


The United States donates more wheat than any other agricultural commodity as direct food aid or to help fund assistance to the world’s neediest people. Yet a mix of government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and regulations complicate the food aid donation process.

To help navigate these waters, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) established a Food Aid Working Group (FAWG). FAWG includes farmer board members and state wheat commission staff who want to ensure food aid programs are used effectively and continue their important work overseas. Together with the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), FAWG meets annually to advocate for food aid programs with officials from USDA and its Foreign Agricultural Service, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and congressional agricultural committees.

U.S. Food Aid was established years agoVirtual meetings with officials this year focused on two major challenges: a rising trend toward using larger amounts of cash and vouchers in food aid programs; and cargo preference shipping rules that increase the cost of U.S.-sourced wheat and other commodity donations.

These challenges did not exist when food aid programs began under the 1954 Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act as a way for the U.S. to share excess commodities to countries with food needs. Food aid programs now include development programs like USDA’s Food for Progress (FFPr) and monetary donations.

Cash Donations Exceed Food

In addition, cash transfers and food vouchers representing 35% of USAID’s Food for Peace (FFP) program donations surpassed in-kind donations of wheat and other commodities in FY 2020. The most-cited argument for this shift is that cash and vouchers are more cost-efficient and easier to handle compared to the high costs of shipping commodities.

This leads to the second challenge FAWG members addressed during these advocacy meetings.

Costly Shipping Rules

Current cargo preference rules require that U.S. flag vessels must ship at least 50% of in-kind U.S. food aid. This cargo preference does increase costs for non-government organizations (NGOs) and U.S. agencies implementing these programs. A 2015 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that cargo preference requirements for shipping food aid increased costs by about 23%, or $107 million, from 2011 to 2014 The high costs from cargo preference limit the amount of funds these programs can use to purchase commodities.

However, during the last farm bill debate, the Farm Bureau advocated for modernizing the Food for Peace program through cost savings. In its effort, Farm Bureau cited research showing a greater mix of U.S., local, and regionally sourced food would save $300 million per year that could be used to feed more people.

“Food is the moral right of all who are born into the world.” — Dr. Norman Borlaug

Strong Commitment

As the cost of food rises and pushes more individuals into food insecurity across the globe, USW and FAWG members believe we must keep commodities in food aid programs. U.S. growers take pride in the fact that their wheat is assisting some of the world’s most vulnerable individuals. Their commitment to global food assistance and programs that include the full range of options to help countries attain lasting and sustainable food security remains strong.

By Shelbi Knisley, USW Director of Trade Policy


As part of its fiscal year 2021 Food for Progress Program, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA-FAS) recently announced an award of 300,000 metric tons of U.S. hard red winter wheat to Sudan. The award is worth an estimated $120 million.

As wheat is a dietary staple in many diets, U.S. wheat has a long history of playing an important role in U.S. food aid programs. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the farmers our organization represents welcome this award and are proud to play a part in helping the Sudanese people.

Food for Progress is an international development program at USDA-FAS that was authorized in the 1985 Farm Bill to help developing countries improve their agricultural industry through the monetization of donated commodities. The donated commodity is most often sold into the local market, with the proceeds funding an agricultural development program or addressing a specific need in that country.

Ethiopia Feed Program

Several Food for Progress programs have used wheat in recent years to help those in need. U.S. wheat was purchased to support Ethiopia’s livestock-feeding industry through the Feed for Enhancement for Ethiopian Development project (FEED). FEED monetized the wheat to supply a challenged local flour mill to secure supplies. The bran byproduct from processing the wheat was sold for livestock feeding in return, benefitting the FEED program.

Water Development in Jordan

Under a different Food for Progress program, wheat was monetized to Jordan for water development projects, including drilling deep wells, water waste treatment facilities, and dams for the purpose of agricultural improvements in Jordan. This area of the world has diminishing water supplies and limited infrastructure, so projects like these help improve agricultural development to countries in need.

To show wheat arriving in Jordan as part of a Food for Progress program in 2017.

The bulk carrier African Sunbird with U.S.-origin hard red winter wheat at the Port of Aqaba, Jordan on Aug. 29, 2017, during the vessel delivery ceremony under the USDA’s Food for Progress Program. Photo by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Although most U.S. food aid is sent under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s emergency feeding programs, the Food for Progress program is unique in that it was established to pair the use of U.S. commodities with funding for agricultural development programs in developing countries. Programs are either government-to-government or through awarded proposals from non-government organizations (NGOs).

NGO Role

Once the government awards a program to an NGO, it implements the development program in one of the countries FAS identifies as priorities each year. The Sudan Food for Progress program is slightly different because it will not impact a specific agricultural development program in country. Instead, the wheat will go to mills then be sold as flour because the country faces a short supply of wheat.

USW values its partnership with USDA-FAS and looks forward to continuous promotion of high-quality U.S. wheat abroad to our valued customers – and to helping improve the lives of the neediest people through the Food for Progress program and other opportunities.

By Shelbi Knisley, USW Director of Trade Policy