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April 28, 2022
USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development are taking the extraordinary step to draw down the full balance of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust as part of an effort to provide $670 million in food assistance to countries in need as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, a fellow major agricultural export country, is driving food and energy costs higher for people around the world,” says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “America’s farmers, ranchers and producers are uniquely positioned through their productivity, and through the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, to help directly feed those around the world impacted by these challenges.”
The world is suffering from historic levels of global food insecurity, which is being exacerbated by the impact Russia's war on Ukraine is having on global food supplies. Available estimates suggest an additional 40 million people could be pushed into poverty and food security as a result of Russia’s aggression.
USAID will use the BEHT’s $282 million to procure U.S. food commodities to bolster existing emergency food operations in six countries facing severe food insecurity: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen. USDA will provide $388 million in additional funding through the Commodity Credit Corporation to cover ocean freight transportation, inland transport, internal transport, shipping and handling and other associated costs.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power notes the drawdown of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust will help us respond to the unprecedented needs in countries around the world that are facing historic food insecurity.
“In Ukraine, which provides 10% of the world's wheat, farmers are struggling to plant and harvest their crops for fear of shelling and Russian landmines, and their path to exporting these vital commodities is severely restricted by Russia’s invasion, which caused the closure of Ukraine's ports. Putin's decision to wage a senseless and brutal war against a peaceful neighbor is leading to a staggering global food crisis,” Power says.
The BEHT is a special authority that was renamed for U.S. Congressman Bill Emerson in 1998 and reauthorized in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill, that enables USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance to respond to unanticipated food crises abroad when other resources are not available. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will authorize the release of funds from the BEHT to provide emergency food assistance if the USAID Administrator determines that funds available for emergency needs under title II of the Food for Peace Act for a fiscal year are insufficient to meet emergency needs during the fiscal year.
This is the first time since 2014 that the U.S. government has used this emergency funding authority.
The funding will be spent on purchasing domestic wheat and other commodities as part of a food aid package to help feed people in countries experiencing food insecurity. The funding will also be used to cover the costs of transporting the commodities to their destination.
“Wheat has long been the most often donated commodity for food aid programs and wheat growers are ready again in this crisis to help ease the hunger,” says Mike Schulte, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission and chair of the U.S. Wheat Associates and National Association of Wheat Growers Food Aid Working Group.
"Today's action is an important step in helping get assistance to countries facing food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine" states Chandler Goule, NAWG CEO. "Ukraine is a significant wheat exporting country, and Russia's aggression has caused considerable market and global supply chain disruptions. Unlocking the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust will play a crucial role in helping address the urgent humanitarian needs resulting from this conflict."
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., says that the decision to draw down funds from the BEHT is welcome news. “Putin’s malicious invasion of Ukraine, unrelenting natural disasters, geopolitical strife, and pandemic-related impacts are wreaking havoc on the world’s food supply, with vulnerable countries and communities feeling it the most. While this necessary action will not completely mitigate the problems we face, it is a step in the right direction. The BEHT was created for use during times of exceptional need, and while unfortunate, we have reached that moment. I’ve always said food security is national security, and I thank the Administration for acting,” Thompson says.
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner welcomed the announcement as a critical part of the U.S. effort to help feed those in need overseas. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created unprecedented turmoil in agricultural commodity markets that have combined with underlying inflation to accelerate a food security crisis in many developing countries,” Conner says. "We urge the Biden administration and Congress to continue America’s historical commitment to humanitarian food assistance as this country continues to respond to the direct and indirect impacts of Russia’s military aggression.”
“Given the unprecedented scale of global hunger made worse by Russia’s war against Ukraine, it is critical that USDA and USAID use all of the tools and resources they have to respond to this crisis,” says Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “While there is much more to be done, this is an important step forward to feeding those most in need.”
Policy editor, Farm Futures
Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.
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