FACTBOX-U.S. food aid a jumble of programs with different goals

by Reuters
Wednesday, 1 May 2013 19:08 GMT

WASHINGTON, May 1 (Reuters) - The Obama administration's fiscal 2014 budget called for the biggest changes to U.S. food aid programs in decades, by using cash donation, which can be used for food vouchers and local purchases of food, as the basis of much of the aid.

In making the changes, the White House also hoped to address what has become a jumble of different aid programs run by different government departments.

Five food aid programs are funded through the U.S. Agriculture Department but the U.S. State Department actually operates the largest of them, Food for Peace, which has been tabbed by the White House for modernization.

Created in 1954, Food for Peace gets roughly 75 percent of the funds devoted to food aid.

U.S. aid has for decades been built around donation of U.S.-grown food such as rice, vegetable oil, lentils and dry beans.

Here are highlights of the aid programs:


Also known as Public Law 480, Food for Peace is run by the State Department. Some 45 million people receive food annually through Food for Peace. Besides hunger relief, a portion of the program is devoted to projects for larger local food production, to preclude the need for relief.

Budget austerity and soaring commodity prices create friction between the two objectives of short-term hunger relief and longer-term food security.

Agricultural development is funded through "monetization," the sale of donated U.S. goods in the recipient countries with the proceeds used by charities that oversee the projects.

An estimated 3 billion people in 150 countries have been aided by Food for Peace over the decades. It was created in a Cold War combination of U.S. compassion for hungry people, a pragmatic outlet for huge U.S. farm surpluses of the time, and as a diplomatic lever. In recent years, Food for Peace has focused on food donation; a companion scheme of concessional sales, run by USDA, has been mothballed.


The newest of U.S. food aid program is the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, created in 2002. Donations of U.S. agricultural products provide daily meals for school children in food-deficit countries with an emphasis on education for girls. With roughly $185 million in funding, the program is currently active in 27 countries in South America, Asia and Africa. In fiscal 2012, it helped feed 2.75 million children.


Dating from the 1985 farm law, the program donates U.S. food to support free-market reforms in developing countries. The donated food is sold by aid groups with the proceeds used to pay for development projects, such as training farmers, building roads and setting up micro credit programs. Some $158 million was devoted to projects in 11 countries in Latin America and Africa last year to aid 7 million people.


The Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust was created in 1980 as a wheat stockpile and later expanded to include rice, corn and sorghum. The reserve, authorized to hold up to 4 million tonnes of grain, was converted to a cash reserve in fiscal 2008 for emergency aid. The trust held $311 million at the start of 2013.

SECTION 416(b)

Created by the 1949 agricultural law, Section 416(b) allows donation of U.S. surplus food provided it does not disrupt commercial sales. Section 416(b) is not used at present because government-held stockpiles of food are depleted. (Reporting by Charles Abbott; editing by Ros Krasny and Bob Burgdorfer)

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