Funding Request Links Food Aid to Pandemic Relief

Dark-skinned hands hold raw, white rice
Good grain (WFP photo)
May 15, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC -- On Monday, almost forty members of the agricultural trade community signed off on a letter to the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting additional funding for U.S. global food assistance programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Specifically, the letter asks for a $1 billion injection in the next COVID-19 supplemental funding package for procurement and distribution of U.S. commodities through U.S. international food aid programs.  To date, COVID-19 supplemental funding has not included additional funding for global food assistance.  

The U.S. agricultural community, including USA Rice, has provided food and nutrition to food insecure nations and vulnerable populations around the world for more than sixty years and has become increasingly alarmed by forecasts of an emerging global hunger crisis.  While the U.S. food supply chain is under duress due to the ongoing pandemic, the actual production and supply of most food continues uninterrupted and remains bountiful enough to feed the world.  

The letter cites recent remarks from David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), warning of dire circumstances facing many developing countries and “the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.”  Recent WFP reports note almost 1 billion people either going to bed hungry or facing crisis levels of hunger or worse.  

The letter also reminds legislators that American farmers and the U.S. food supply chain are well positioned to provide essential nutrition to those most vulnerable across the world and that this is a critical leadership role the U.S. must continue to play.   

A bipartisan letter was also sent on Monday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), penned by House Committee on Agriculture Members Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and GT Thompson (R-PA), calling for increased shipments of U.S. commodities through food aid.

The letter said: “In 2019, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace purchased and shipped more than 1.5 million metric tons of American-grown commodities to dozens of countries around the world.  At a time when farmers are facing low farm gate prices and tremendous surpluses, these programs can help both at home and abroad.”

Last year, more than 79,000 metric tons of U.S. rice were shipped through U.S. international food aid programs, primarily driven through demand in the USDA McGovern-Dole Program.  

An additional $1 billion spread throughout the three main international food aid programs would significantly boost the tonnage of U.S. food shipped in 2020, including a welcome boost to rice shipments.  As needs increase in the summer and fall, U.S. agriculture, including USA Rice, will be ready to help fill that void overseas.