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By Shelbi Knisley, USW Director of Trade Policy

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.

 

 

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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.

 

Wheat harvest photo

On Feb. 24, 2021, Thomas Duffy, the Director of the Office of Agricultural Policy at the U.S. Department of State, joined the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) Joint Wheat Breeding Innovation Committee meeting to discuss global agriculture. The Office of Agricultural Policy promotes global food security, ensures a level playing field in agricultural trade, and advocates for agricultural biotechnology. 

 

Thomas Duffy, then Chargé d'Affaires, U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, giving remarks at the Launch of the 2018 Global Report on Food Crises addressing global food security.

Thomas Duffy, then Chargé d’Affaires, U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome, giving remarks at the Launch of the 2018 Global Report on Food Crises.  Credit: ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti Copyright: FAO.

We Need Science-Based Policies

“With climate change at the center of the U.S. foreign policy, we believe that innovations that support resource-efficient and climate-smart agriculture can promote resilience and sustainable food production globally,” Duffy said.  Some of the areas which hold the greatest promise, according to Duffy, include biotechnology twinned with “Big Data” and advances in artificial intelligence. As users of these innovations, farmers play an essential role in adopting and embracing new technologies to sequester carbon to mitigate climate change further and protect their investments.

 

Still, global access to and acceptance of agricultural biotechnology is a long way from reality. On a positive note, drought-tolerant and herbicide-tolerant GE (genetically engineered) wheat has been approved for the first time in Argentina. This advancement could have huge implications for global wheat markets if successful. USW and NAWG positions on biotechnology are available online.  

 Duffy stressed the need for global engagement, saying, “It’s important for us to leverage international forums and agreements to continue to advance science-based policies globally.”

We All Have a Role

International organizations play a critical role in setting worldwide standards and policies that underpin global trade in food and agriculture and responding to global challenges, such as feeding a growing population. As the Biden Administration has made clear, “The United States is committed to the international organizations that shape our world.” 

 

U.S. farmers traveled to East Africa to learn about global food security and food aid programs.

U.S. wheat, sorghum and rice growers observed East African food aid programs in 2019.

Duffy said, “We are all proud of the work done by the World Food Programme – headed by David Beasley who, while an international civil servant, is an American citizen. WFP was the recipient of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize and I am proud to note our steadily increasing support for WFP over the last several years. We believe American leadership in and support for international organizations is crucial, and we will continue to maintain or re-establish leadership roles in order to champion advancements in food and agriculture and represent U.S. farmers, ranchers, innovators, and workers.”

  

“In communities that rely largely on agriculture for their food and income, gender inequality translates into a large gender gap in agricultural productivity, for which countries pay a high price,” Duffy continued. Previous macro-level studies by UN Women have calculated potential gross gains of $100 USD million in Malawi, $105 million in Tanzania, and $67 million in Uganda per year from closing the agricultural productivity gap between men and women.

 

Given the challenges facing global food security and agriculture, it is more important than ever that the agriculture sector performs to its full capacity, which includes enabling women as leaders at all levels in the industry, leading to more efficient, inclusive and sustainable results. 

Safeguarding the Entire System

Finally, global access to food must be protected in the face of pandemic trade restrictions, increasing levels of poverty, international conflict, and the impacts of climate change. The United Nations SOFI report warns that the global rate of hunger has continued to rise despite the goal of zero hunger by 2030, and COVID-19 may increase the number of food insecure by up to 130 million people. 

 

The United States government, Duffy stated, is working to ensure the upcoming 2021 UN Food Systems Summit addresses global food security challenges through science-based solutions for sustainability in food production methods, supply chains, and regulatory policies. 

 

Duffy concluded by saying, “To achieve true and lasting food security, we need to build and safeguard the entire food ecosystem – the land and water, the local economies, the supply chain, the farmers, and the communities that depend on one another to thrive.” 

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Major organizations supporting the U.S. commitment to international food aid this week confirmed that U.S. wheat remains their most donated crop for monetization and feeding assistance. Representatives from World Food Program (WFP) USA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Food Assistance Division of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service provided that information at a meeting of the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Food Aid Working Group Nov. 10.

WFP USA is the U.S.-based organization associated with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020 “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

USAID “leads the U.S. Government’s international development and disaster assistance through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.”

FAS’s non-emergency food aid programs help meet recipients’ nutritional needs and support agricultural development and education. These food assistance programs, combined with trade capacity building efforts, support long-term economic development and help countries make the transition from food aid recipient to commercial buyer.

At the meeting, Rebecca Middleton, Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy, and Jane Shey, Senior Policy Consultant with WFP USA noted that U.S. farmer engagement is very important to the organization’s mission, which relies heavily on both public and private donations. Shey acknowledged wheat farmers and the USW Food Aid Working Group specifically.

“I think it is important to say that one of the first shipments of food aid our organization made was in 1961 after an earthquake in Northern Iran, and it was 1,500 metric tons of U.S. wheat,” she said.

Katie McKenna, Policy and Program Coordinator Officer with USAID, reported that USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) has procured 697,280 metric tons of U.S. wheat, including a small amount of flour, in fiscal year 2020. That represents nearly 47 percent of all commodities purchased by BHA and makes wheat the largest commodity used in emergency and non-emergency food assistance. Of that total, more than 58 percent was in-kind soft white wheat destined for Yemen. The organization also sent U.S. hard red winter wheat and flour to Ethiopia (41.7 percent of the total) and Djibouti.

The USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) relies heavily on U.S. wheat for in-kind food donations.

Unfortunately, there is no let-up in the need for food assistance in the world.

“Food security is not improving,” McKenna said. “Natural disasters, conflicts and now the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the vulnerability of millions. Yemen is the best example and I believe our agency and the World Food Programme are doing heroic work providing and distributing food for 8.2 million people there.”

In fact, on Nov. 6, USAID announced that it intends to grant $20 million to the WFP to purchase approximately 65,600 metric tons of wheat for the people of Sudan to help alleviate shortages of flour and bread in the Khartoum region.

 

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By Shelbi Knisley, USW Director of Trade Policy 

The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to push an estimated 71 to 140 million people into extreme poverty according to studies by the United Nations and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). According to the IFPRI study, “a global health crisis could thus cause a major food crisis—unless steps are taken to provide unprecedented economic emergency relief.”

U.S. wheat farmers, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) have been partners in U.S. international food assistance programs for more than 50 years. They have encouraged strategies that include the full range of options to help countries attain lasting and sustainable food security. And U.S. support of food aid programs is more important now than ever.

The pandemic threatens the people who were already severely suffering from food insecurity, especially in areas of Africa and Asia. The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) food assistance programs, sustained by U.S. commodities, are ideally prepared to help these countries in extreme need.

There are three major U.S. food aid programs. USDA administers Food for Progress and McGovern-Dole Food for Education. Food for Progress supports countries in modernizing and strengthening their agricultural industry, while McGovern-Dole supports education and food security in low income and food insecure countries. USAID’s program Food for Peace is under Title II of the Food for Peace Act, which is an emergency feeding program.

Wheat is an important component of these programs. Some years the U.S. government donates enough wheat for feeding programs and monetization to count as a top-ten U.S. wheat export market. In marking year 2019/20, for example, U.S. wheat accounted for more than 900,000 metric tons (MT) of food aid donations through USDA and USAID programs, and represented almost four percent of U.S. commercial shipments. This is a source of pride to U.S. wheat farmers.

Much of this wheat was distributed under USAID’s Food for Peace program. The largest recipients of this program, over about the last 5 years, are Ethiopia and Yemen, which has received soft white wheat as the country continues to suffer under civil war.

In August 2018, the World Food Programme (WFP) and USAID hosted an event in Portland, Ore., to bring attention to the need for food in Yemen and the ongoing U.S. efforts to provide aid. The media event was held across the Willamette River from an export elevator where government-purchased SW wheat was being loaded into an bulk container ship bound for Yemen.

With food insecurity on the rise, driven by the current pandemic, it is even more important to ensure food is being provided to those in need. Not only is food aid important in helping to feed a growing global population but also aids in advancing developing countries’ agricultural industries through the support of U.S. commodities.

USW believes it is important to engage our farmers and staff as much as possible in these important food aid programs. In the fall of 2019 USW organized a food aid trip to Tanzania and Kenya which included members and staff from the rice, sorghum, and wheat industries. Trips such as this allow for U.S. growers to see first-hand how their commodities are contributing to these programs and to share their experiences and the good work the United States is doing for others in need.

Farmers representing USW, NAWG, U.S. Grains Council (USGC), and USA Rice spent 14 days in Kenya and Tanzania in November 2019 to see how donation programs help improve lives. The trip was funded by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programs.

The U.S. agricultural industry, including the wheat farmers USW represents, stand ready to continue providing food and economic opportunity through monetization to the world’s most vulnerable during these uncertain

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By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy

Of the more than 1.9 million metric tons (MMT) of international food commodities the United States donated in 2018/19, more than 800,000 MT of it was high-quality milling wheat. Given the important role U.S. agriculture plays in supporting the neediest people around the world, farmers representing U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), U.S. Grains Council (USGC), and USA Rice spent 14 days in Kenya and Tanzania in November to see how donation programs help improve lives.

The team, funded by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programs, consisted of: Nicole Berg, NAWG Treasurer and a wheat farmer in Washington state; Denise Conover, Director of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee and a wheat farmer in Montana; Tim Gertson, USA Rice member and a rice farmer in Texas; Linsey Ogden, Washington representative for the National Sorghum Producers; Adam Schindler, USGC representative and sorghum farmer in South Dakota; Jeffery Sylvester, USA Rice board member and a rice farmer in Louisiana; Jesica Kincaid, USA Rice Manager of International Policy; Molly O’Connor, NAWG Trade Policy Advisor ; Katy Wyatt, USGC Manager of Global Strategies; and Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy.

Denise Conover helps WFP staff load bags of US wheat into a truck for transport.

One of the most impactful days for this unique team was a visit to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya with the World Food Programme (WFP). Some of the more than 200,000 camp residents from nine different countries have lived there for 20 years or more. In partnership with USAID, WFP is feeding 98 percent of the camp with more than half of their food supplies coming from the United States.

When the team met with the refugee-led Food Distribution Committee in the camp, its chairman, a man named Nelson, emphasized that they were always very happy with the high quality of U.S. food they received and, specifically, the excellent quality of wheat flour. The wheat is delivered to the camp in bags and refugees are given a stipend to assist with the milling cost. This is more efficient than transporting flour and helps support the local milling industry.

An important part of programs like WFP’s work in Kakuma is logistics. To gain a better understanding of that side of the work, the team also visited WFP’s office in Mombasa, Kenya, which is one of the largest ports in Africa. From its base in Mombasa, WFP supports feeding programs in Sudan, South Sudan, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Uganda. WFP has been working in Mombasa for 30 years and regularly receives U.S. food shipments.

Trip participants look at typical commodities used in the camp feeding programs.

The team meets with the refugee-led Food Distribution Committee. The Chairman, Nelson, is standing and giving an overview of their system.

While the emergency feeding programs the team observed in Kenya are vital, seeing some of USDA’s agricultural development programming completed the full picture of food assistance work that utilizes U.S. commodities. For this, the team traveled to Tanzania and observed a Food for Progress project run by Small Enterprise Assistance Funds (SEAF) and funded through the monetization of wheat. They also observed U.S. Grain Council’s successful Food for Progress project that works to support poultry farms and feed mills in country. The team members met with the mill that purchased the monetized wheat and talked to the bakery that used some of the flour. Food for Progress is unique because while funding agricultural development work, it also supports local industry and builds commercial capacity.

The team visiting a greenhouse project that allows refugees to grow their own food on irrigated land.

The U.S. agricultural industry and farm families continue to support international food assistance work. Trips like this allow our farmers to see the programs up close and in action, instead of just hearing about them in conference rooms and at board meetings. By gaining this practical experience, they are better able to spread the news about the effectiveness and value of the programs and be active partners in ensuring that these programs continue their good work long into the future.

Header Photo Caption: The team with the refugees on the Food Distribution Committee in front of a feeding center. 

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By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy

“We know that a peaceful world cannot long exist, one-third rich and two-thirds hungry.” – President Jimmy Carter

Conflict and population displacement are both on the rise around the world. From war in Yemen to natural disasters in Southern and Eastern Africa, when these events happen, the people most at risk are also the most vulnerable to malnutrition—women and children. While there are no easy answers to these problems, the U.S. government and U.S. wheat farmers are doing their parts to help.

In marketing year 2018/19, the United States donated 800,100 metric tons (TMT) of wheat through international food assistance programs. Of this, 46% (364.4 TMT) was hard red winter wheat donated primarily to Ethiopia, and 52% (418.1 TMT) was soft white (SW) wheat primarily donated to Yemen. Other countries that received wheat included Ghana, Kenya and Bangladesh. Some of these donations were part of USDA Food for Progress monetization programs, under which wheat is sold commercially in-country and then the proceeds of that sale are used to fund an agricultural development project in the area.

September 2018 – USAID hosted an event in Portland, Ore., to bring attention to the need for food in Yemen and ongoing U.S. efforts to provide aid. Read more about this event here.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has long supported these programs and the economic value they bring to countries. Other donations, like the SW wheat going to Yemen, were part of USAID’s Food for Peace emergency feeding initiatives. Yemen has been embroiled in civil war for several years now, and that instability has very real negative effects on its population. This program works to ensure that the most vulnerable people, such as women and young children, have access to food despite such turmoil.

Food aid donations are not a “market.” These programs feed hungry people and generate diplomatic goodwill, making the world a safer place. If these programs are working effectively, there would be no need to donate commodities at all because there would not be food insecurity abroad. However, until that day comes and while political crises continue to outpace natural disasters, the United States’ leadership and commitment to supplying these resources, as it has for over 60 years, is as crucial as ever.

In 2017, USW led a team of U.S. wheat farmers, state wheat commission staff members and others to Tanzania to visit current USDA Food for Progress projects funded by wheat monetization. Read more about this experience here.

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By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy

In its 2018 Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) Index, the Global Harvest Initiative has reported that food production growth is not keeping up with the rising population pressures. The past four years, the index has reported a similar trend, and that gap is widening.

This is one reason why the theme of The 2018 World Food Prize and Borlaug Dialogue Oct. 15 to 19 in Des Moines, Iowa, was “Rise to the Challenge.” According to World Food Prize Foundation President Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, the theme references “the single greatest challenge in human history…whether we can sustainably feed the 9 billion people who will be on our planet in 2050.”

More than over 1,200 people from over 65 countries attend this annual event. The 2018 World Food Prize Laureates honored there were Dr. Lawrence Haddad and Dr. David Nabarro for their work to elevate maternal and child undernutrition in policy discussions and with development groups around the world.

This year’s Borlaug Dialogue focuses significantly on nutrition challenges, and speakers included Her Excellency Mercedes Araoz, Vice President of Peru; former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman; Daniel Voytas, Chief Science Officer of Calyxt; Rob Bertram, Chief Scientist at USAID’s Bureau of Food Security; Martin Kropff, Director General of CIMMYT; Sir Gordon Conway; James Collins, Chief Operating Officer for Corteva Agriscience™; Ted McKinney, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Affairs; and Randal Kirk, CEO of Intrexon.

The first 1,000 days of life, which encompasses the period of a child’s life from pregnancy to its second birthday, is the most critical developmental period for children. Malnutrition in this window can lead to irreversible damage to a child’s brain development and physical growth, resulting in developmental delays and stunting. It also increases their risks of diseases later in life, including heart disease and diabetes.

For this reason, food security cannot be a conversation about increasing calories alone. It is vital that nutrition security is part of that discussion and part of any solution. By fighting malnutrition in women and young children, it is possible to break up the insidious cycle in which malnourished mothers give birth to malnourished daughters, who then grow up to be undernourished mothers. This not only benefits women, but also a country’s entire economy.

Wheat is a staple crop around the world and is thus an important part of this conversation. Not only does wheat make up 20 percent of calories in global diets, it also makes up 20 percent of protein on average. Additionally, whole wheat and fortified white flour provides essential nutrients, including niacin and iron. Fortified flours also include folic acid, thiamin, essential B vitamins and riboflavin. Whole wheat products are a great source of fiber and are naturally low in fat. They also contain key nutrients like selenium, potassium and magnesium.

U.S. Wheat Associates is proud to help our farmers’ high-quality wheat reach customers around the world, and we are also proud of our continued engagement on food security issues. Find more information about our policies and activities online here.

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By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy

The United States has been a leader in helping those in need around the world for more than 60 years. In marketing year (MY) 2017/18, the United States sent approximately 800,000 metric tons (MT) of wheat overseas through international food aid programs, according to U.S. Wheat Associates’ internal tracking. Almost half of this amount, 385,000 MT, was soft white (SW) wheat that went to Yemen. Other recipient countries included Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali and Sri Lanka.

To put this number in perspective, the top five export markets for SW wheat in MY2017/18 were:

  1. Philippines – 1,174,200 MT
  2. Japan – 828,800 MT
  3. South Korea – 805,800 MT
  4. Indonesia – 599,100 MT
  5. China – 312,600 MT

Currently, an estimated 22.2 million people in the country require humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs, and 17.8 million of those need emergency food assistance. Wheat donations overseas vary from year to year because they are driven by need. Two years ago, Ethiopia was receiving the vast majority of wheat donations due to famine caused by drought that decimated local production.

Yemen is now receiving large quantities of wheat due to prolonged civil unrest that contributes to food insecurity. In August, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) hosted an event in Portland, Ore., to bring attention to the need for food in Yemen and the ongoing U.S. efforts to provide aid. The media event was held across the Willamette River from an export elevator where government-purchased SW wheat was being loaded into an bulk container ship bound for Yemen.

Yemen is experiencing the largest food security emergency in the world, with people facing famine because they are unable to access sufficient food on their own. To complicate matters, ongoing violence around key ports makes getting food into the country more and more difficult. So far in 2018, WFP’s work in Yemen has reached approximately 7 million food-insecure people monthly with food assistance and food vouchers. Other than U.S. wheat, USAID’s Food for Peace program has also provided U.S.-sourced peas and vegetable oil to the country, as well as ready-to-use therapeutic foods that combat severe malnutrition.

As we face a world with political instability and unpredictable natural disasters, the demand for food aid is unlikely to abate; instead, the recipient countries will simply shift from year to year.

Given this continued need, it is vital that the United States continue to be a leader in humanitarian efforts abroad. Wheat is a staple food source for much of the world, providing an average of 20 percent of calories and protein to people worldwide. If the United States is to remain a leader, then in-kind commodity donations must remain a key part of our donations programs.

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By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Assistant Director of Policy

On Feb. 12, President Trump unveiled a FY2019 budget proposal that included several areas of support for agriculture. It was disappointing, however, to see that the proposal eliminates federal funding for Food for Peace, the most effective U.S. emergency food assistance program helping populations in need around the world. The budget would also de-fund USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, which addresses nutrition and literacy goals in rural schools overseas, and Food for Progress, an innovative program combining U.S. commodity donations with commercial purchases and agricultural development.

U.S. farmers are proud of these programs and the important role that U.S. commodities play in international assistance. Wheat farmers have long been the leading suppliers, and in 2017, the United States sent more than 800,000 metric tons (MT) of wheat overseas as food aid.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has been a partner in supporting these programs for their more than 60 years of existence and works hard to make sure that wheat is used appropriately and that wheat buyers and NGOs can use the programs effectively. We are proud of our long partnership with USDA and USAID in accomplishing those goals.

This year, the world faces even more need with famine on the horizon in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. The overriding moral imperative demands that we maintain our international food assistance efforts. Beyond the help for those in need around the world, these programs have vital benefits for domestic constituents. International assistance fosters goodwill, which helps with national security efforts. The use of U.S. commodities ties farmers directly to program beneficiaries, allowing them to connect with the programs’ goals in a way that simply using cash (or not being involved at all) does not. Additionally, development programs boost burgeoning economies, which benefits the entire global economic system by encouraging trade with the full participation of poorer nations.

We strongly urge the Administration to reconsider the value and effectiveness of these programs in future budget proposals. We are grateful that most U.S. lawmakers seem to appreciate the importance of international food assistance. As its members did last year, we hope Congress once again ignores the ill-conceived call to eliminate these successful and indispensable programs and keeps them intact in the final 2019 U.S. budget.