U.S. wheat industry urges international food aid support

09.06.2017

After U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s proposed new budget for the USDA, the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture held a full committee hearing on June 7 to review “The Next Farm Bill: The Future of International Food Aid and Agricultural Development.”

The new proposal sharply reduces the U.S. commitment to international food assistance. The United States provides most emergency and developmental food assistance under P.L. 480 Title II, also known as Food for Peace. Instead, the funding for fiscal year (FY) 2018 emergency international food assistance, a proposed $1.1 billion, would be funneled through the International Disaster Account at USAID.

On behalf of the wheat industry, Ron Suppes, Kansas Wheat commissioner and a wheat grower from Dighton, Kansas, U.S., testified on food aid and a recent trip to Tanzania where he saw programs that utilized wheat.

“In Tanzania, I saw first-hand how wheat farmers can play a significant role in international food aid programs,” Suppes said. “These programs involve a significant amount of wheat, a fact not lost on farmers with full grain bins and more wheat piled on the ground from last year’s historically high harvest. It is a year when the U.S. needs to be a world leader in helping provide for those in need with these ample supplies.”

Suppes believes the support of ag development could lead to future trade relationships.

“Food aid can also generate goodwill with other countries,” he said. “By encouraging agricultural development in Tanzania, we’re ultimately spurring economic growth, which means Tanzania is more likely to be a stronger trading partner in the future. And the tangible presence of U.S. wheat in that equation is a symbol that cash can’t match. U.S. commodities play a key role in helping regions unable to produce wheat and other commodities on their own due to drought, conflict or other circumstances. We have enough surplus that no one should be going hungry.

“I commend the House Committee on Agriculture for recognizing and highlighting the valuable role that the agricultural industry plays in international food aid.”

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) supported Suppes’ push for continued international food aid and agricultural development.

“The U.S. is producing enough wheat to meet global demand and still have a surplus,” said David Schemm, president of NAWG. “In 2017, USDA projects that global production of wheat will reach an all-time high of 751.3 million tonnes with stockpiles at a record high of 258.3 million tonnes.”

NAWG hopes the continued food aid will avoid civil conflicts that could impact the United States.

“Wheat can play a significant role in the fight to end hunger,” Schemm said. “Not only for humanitarian reasons but for global security as well. Even if located on the other side of the world, food-insecure nations are prone to enter civil unrest which can impact us right here at home.”


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