By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Policy Specialist

This year, for the first time, USDA and USAID held their International Food Assistance and Food Security Conference in conjunction with the 2016 World Food Prize event in Des Moines, IA, the week of Oct. 10. The two-day event brought together people from commodity organizations, NGOs, government and academic institutions to discuss future food aid and development programming and opportunities for improvement. Representatives from USW, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and from wheat commissions in Oklahoma, Nebraska and South Dakota attended the conference and hosted an exhibit detailing the importance of wheat to food aid and food security.

As part of the conference program, two representatives from the Jordanian government talked about their important work with wheat monetization through USDA’s Food for Progress program. Monetization is a process that funds development projects with the sale of donated U.S. commodities. The proceeds from a 2012 wheat monetization program went to Jordan’s Al-Karak Dam project, which is nearing completion. The proceeds from a second wheat monetization in 2015 were split between 10 different projects that focus on water conservation amid the country’s rising refugee populations.

Conferences like this one allow USW to connect with implementers of food aid programs and discuss how best to improve communication and commodity use efficiency. Wheat makes up, on average, 40 percent of all in-kind U.S. food aid. In marketing year 2015/16, 710,100 MT of wheat were exported for donation in food aid programs, including 410,000 MT to Ethiopia alone to help prevent famine during a historic drought. That is why U.S. wheat farmers and the organizations that represent them remain dedicated to ensuring that these programs work well and continue to be a focus for the U.S. government.

The USDA-USAID conference preceded the annual World Food Prize event that honors individuals improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. This year’s prize went to four scientists for their work in biofortification — Dr. Maria Andrade, Dr. Robert Mwanga, Dr. Jan Low, and Dr. Howarth Bouis. Biofortification is the use of breeding to increase the critical vitamin and micronutrient content in staple crops. The busy week included the annual Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium in which 1,200 leaders in global food security discussed biofortification, the role of women in economic development, and the importance of food security to national security, among other topics.

Both the USDA-USAID conference and the Borlaug Dialogue featured trade prominently. USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Administrator Phil Karsting spoke at the USDA-USAID conference, where he argued that stakeholders who care about human rights and development should also care about Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and enhancing free trade. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke at the Borlaug Dialogue and focused on the importance of trade, and TPP specifically, to food security.

USW extends its sincerest congratulations to this year’s World Food Prize Laureates and its thanks to USDA and USAID for holding the Food Assistance and Food Security Conference. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in both of these important events because wheat is so vital to food security around the world. As Dr. Norman Borlaug, wheat scientist, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and World Food Prize founder, said, “If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread; otherwise there will be no peace.”


By Elizabeth Westendorf, USW Policy Specialist

Last week, USDA announced Food for Progress funding allocations for fiscal year 2016. A total of $153.2 million in funding will go to projects in eight countries that USDA estimates will reach over 3.8 million beneficiaries.

Half of the countries on the list (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Mozambique) are in Africa, where this Food for Progress funding will not only enable development projects in these countries, but will also raise money for those projects by providing U.S. commodities for sale in the local markets. All four of these countries are experiencing severe droughts that have hurt domestic food production. The monetized commodities through Food for Progress supplement locally produced food supplies that are currently not sufficient to fully meet their populations’ needs. They also provide economic stimulus to encourage continued development that can lead to more resilience in future food crises.

Studies show a strong positive correlation between food insecurity and political instability. When it seems like instability around the world is rising and there are more crises demanding U.S. foreign assistance, these food aid programs are more important than ever.

The United States is the largest provider of food aid worldwide. USAID funding has evolved to include new methods of reaching those in need, but U.S. wheat farmers believe traditional in-kind food aid will always have a place in both emergency and developmental humanitarian aid programs. New emergency aid tools like local and regional procurement and cash vouchers supplement the foundational aid tool of in-kind food aid.

USW is committed to supporting programs that help feed food-insecure people. In a world with political uncertainty and increasingly volatile climate conditions, U.S. wheat farmers are proud that their product is going to benefit food-insecure populations through USDA and USAID emergency and developmental aid.