The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural
Service (FAS) helps provide U.S. agricultural commodities to assist millions of
people in needy countries through direct donations and concessional programs.
The U.S. government can provide food assistance through five program
authorities: the Food for Progress Program, the McGovern–Dole International Food
for Education and Child Nutrition Program, the Food for Peace Act (formerly
referred to as Public Law 480, Titles I, II, and III), Section 416(b), and the
Local and Regional Procurement Projects.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administers Titles II
and III of the Food for Peace Act. USDA administers the remaining food aid
programs. Both USDA and USAID facilitate the administration of the Bill Emerson
The Food for Progress (FFPr) program, authorized by the Food for
Progress Act of 1985, provides for the donation or credit sale of U.S.
commodities to developing countries and emerging democracies to support
democracy and an expansion of private enterprise. To date, all food aid under
this program has been by donation.
The implementing organizations request commodities and USDA purchases those
commodities from the U.S. market. USDA donates the commodities to the
implementing organizations and pays for the freight to move the commodity to the
USDA announces it is seeking FFPr proposals from private voluntary
organizations (PVOs), foreign governments, and the United Nations World Food
Program (WFP) for the coming fiscal year through the FAS website, the Food
Assistance Consultative Group (FACG), and other avenues. Generally, proposals
are due to USDA in the summer and those chosen are announced the following
USDA considers proposals for all developing countries and territories that
meet the requirements of the Food for Progress Act of 1985. Priority
consideration is given to proposals for countries with:
- per capita income at lower or lower-middle income standards (using World
- greater than 20-percent prevalence of undernourishment as a proportion
of the total population (World Health Organization (WHO) of the United
Nations data); and
- positive movement toward freedom, including political rights and civil
liberties (as defined by Freedom House).
USDA also uses FFPr to target countries in transition, either politically or
economically. Program priorities, including targeted countries, are announced
publicly through the FAS website and the FACG.
Proposals should focus on private sector development of agricultural sectors
such as improved agricultural techniques, marketing systems, farmer education
and cooperative development, expanded use of processing capacity, and
development of agriculturally related businesses. Each proposal is analyzed to
- commercial markets are not disrupted;
- tangible benefits exist for the country’s agricultural sector;
- tangible, quantifiable outcomes are defined;
- it is well developed and articulated;
- it identifies appropriate commodities and tonnages for the target
- the organization’s capability and experience to carry it out is
Depending on the agreement, the commodities donated through FFPr may be sold
in the recipient country, and the proceeds used to support agricultural,
economic, or infrastructure development programs. Assistance is provided through
foreign governments, PVOs, nonprofit organizations, cooperatives, and
intergovernmental organizations. The program is limited by statute to pay no
more than $40 million annually for freight costs. USDA supports about 15-20
projects each year that impact more than a million people.
One example of how this programs works is the FFPr agreement between USDA and
FINCA International that provided more than $3.5 million in commodities for use
in Nicaragua. FINCA sold the commodities and used the funds to:
- increase loan capital and micro-finance services to micro-entrepreneurs
in agriculture-related businesses;
- develop a specialized agriculture lending product to address the unique
financial needs of agricultural clients; and
- establish an impact assessment protocol to maximize micro-lending
effectiveness in agriculture-related businesses.
By disbursing more than 1,100 loans, over 800 agricultural entrepreneurs have
increased their profits. More than 31,000 community members will benefit
as the program continues to expand.
The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition
(Mc-Govern-Dole) Program helps support education, child development, and
food security for some of the world’s poorest children. It provides for
donations of U.S. agricultural products, as well as financial and technical
assistance, for school feeding and maternal and child nutrition projects in
low-income, food-deficit countries that are committed to universal education.
The commodities are made available for donation through agreements with PVOs,
cooperatives, intergovernmental organizations, and foreign governments.
Commodities may be donated for direct feeding or, in limited situations, for
local sale to generate proceeds to support school feeding and nutrition
To be eligible for new proposals under McGovern-Dole, a country needs to meet
the following criteria to be considered a priority country:
- per capita income at lower or lower-middle income standards (using World
- greater than 20 percent prevalence of undernourishment as a proportion
to the total population (WHO data);
- adult literacy rates below 75 percent;
- a net food importer;
- government commitments to education; and
- no or limited civil conflict that could impede implementation of the
USDA will also give priority to proposals from organizations that have
ongoing McGovern-Dole programs in non-priority countries to support
sustainability. The projects must demonstrate acceptable progress towards
USDA announces it is seeking McGovern-Dole proposals from PVOs, foreign
governments, and the WFP through the FAS website, the FACG, and other avenues.
Generally, proposals are due to USDA in the summer and those chosen are
announced the following January.
Proposals should identify developmental goals for improving literacy and
primary education. Proposals may also include a component that aims to improve
the educational environment for students, particularly girls. For maternal and
child nutrition activities, the proposal should demonstrate how the program will
improve the food security and nutritional status of the target population.
Proposals should support the economic development and integration of the
recipient country and redress civil conflict where applicable, particularly in
post-conflict and post-disaster societies. Coordination with other existing food
aid programs is also important.
Each proposal is evaluated using the same criteria:
- the need for the program is clearly substantiated and the recipient
country is committed to improving its quality of education and nutrition;
- the program is sustainable after USDA funding ends and the government of
the country, local institutions and communities, or other donor(s) will be
involved in the program;
- the proposal’s quality is such that it addresses implementation and cost
issues and includes a situational analysis;
- commodities and tonnages appropriate for the country are identified; and
- the organization’s capability and effectiveness in implementing previous
food aid programs is evident or demonstrated.
USDA is supporting more than 30 programs in 28 countries. More than 5 million
people are currently benefiting from the program.
In 2006, USDA awarded World Vision a grant to provide more than 9,000 tons of
commodities for use in Afghanistan under the McGovern-Dole program. This project
is using vegetable oil, rice, and lentils to provide meals and take-home rations
to more than 80,000 students, over 4,000 teachers, and nearly 1,500 school staff
members each month of the school year over the life of this three-year program.
The project includes a child health component, which provides vitamin A,
deworming tablets, and oral rehydration salts, as well as health and nutrition
education. It also focuses on promoting gender equality by encouraging the
education of girls, despite some lingering cultural norms against building
girls’ schools, and provides literacy training to women in the community.
Before World Vision began this program, Afghan Ministry of Education (MOE)
2003 records showed no girls and only 23,000 boys attended school in the western
provinces of Badghis and Ghor. Since the inception of the program, the number of
girls attending school has greatly increased. Now more girls attend school in
these two provinces than anytime in the last 20 years.
Food for Peace Act
The Food for Peace Act (FPA) was formerly referred to as Public Law 480 or
P.L. 480. FPA has three titles, and each title has a specific objective and
provides assistance to countries at a particular level of economic development.
Title I is administered by USDA, and Titles II and III are administered by USAID.
FPA, Title I–Trade and Development Assistance, provides for
government-to-government sales of U.S. agricultural commodities to developing
countries on credit or grant terms. Agreements under the Title I credit program
may provide for repayment terms of up to 30 years with a grace period of up to 5
years. The authority also allows for grant programs, which have outnumbered
loans in recent years. Depending on the agreement, commodities provided under
the program may be sold in the recipient country and the proceeds used to
support agricultural, economic, or infrastructure development projects.
Since fiscal year 2006, new funding has not been requested because demand for
food assistance using credit financing has fallen or grant programs have been a
more appropriate tool.
FPA, Title II–Emergency and Private Assistance, provides for the
donation of U.S. agricultural commodities to meet emergency and nonemergency
food needs in other countries, including support for food security goals.
Agricultural commodities donated by the U.S. government to meet emergency
needs are traditionally provided through the WFP or PVOs, though they may also
be provided under government-to-government agreements. Nonemergency assistance
may only be provided through PVOs, cooperatives, and intergovernmental
FPA, Title III–Food for Development, provides for
government-to-government grants to support long-term growth in the least
developed countries. Donated commodities are sold in the recipient country, and
the revenue generated is used to support economic development programs. In
recent years, this title has been inactive.
The Section 416(b) program is authorized by the Agricultural Act of
1949, as amended. This program provides for overseas donations of surplus
commodities acquired by the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). Donations may
not reduce the amounts of commodities that are traditionally donated to U.S.
domestic feeding programs or agencies, and may not disrupt normal commercial
Availability of commodities under Section 416(b) depends on CCC inventories
and acquisitions, and programming varies from year to year. The commodities are
made available for donation through agreements with foreign governments, PVOs,
cooperatives, and intergovernmental organizations. Depending on the agreement,
the commodities donated under Section 416(b) may be sold in the recipient
country and the proceeds used to support agricultural, economic, or
infrastructure development programs.
The Section 416(b) program is currently inactive because no CCC inventories
have been made available to the program in recent years.
Local and Regional Procurement
Currently, both USDA and USAID have authority to purchase local and regional
The Local and Regional Procurement Project (Pilot Program) was
authorized as a pilot program under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of
2008 (Farm Bill). The Farm Bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to
implement a five-year local and regional purchase pilot program in developing
countries from fiscal year (FY) 2009 through 2012. CCC funding totaling $60
million will be made available as follows:
- $5 million in FY 2009,
- $25 million in FY 2010,
- $25 million in FY 2011, and
- $5 million in FY 2012.
The primary objective of the USDA pilot program is to use local and regional
purchasing to help quickly meet urgent food needs due to food crises and
disasters. This will protect against a decline in food consumption, save lives,
and reduce suffering.
The Pilot Program has four phases:
Study prior local and regional purchases (FY 2008 – 2009).
Develop guidelines (FY 2009).
Implement field-based projects (FY 2009 – 2011).
Independent evaluation (FY 2012).
On January 16, 2009, the Secretary of Agriculture sent phase one of the USDA
study on local and regional procurement to the House and Senate Agriculture
The USDA study found the following:
- Local and regional purchase is an important tool, enabling food aid
agencies to respond quickly to emergency food needs, both during and after
food crises and disasters.
- Local and regional purchase can be a timely and effective complement to
in-kind food aid programs.
- It is critical to know when and how to use appropriate local and
regional purchase methods to meet emergency food aid needs and avoid harming
low-income consumers, producers, and fragile market systems.
USDA is now in the process of drafting program implementation guidelines
(phase two). These guidelines will be published in the Federal Register for
public comment this summer for 30 days. USDA will seek project proposals when
the guidelines are finalized (phase three).
By the end of FY 2011, all of the Pilot Program projects will be completed.
USDA will contract for an independent evaluation (phase four).
In addition to USDA’s Pilot Program, USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance received up to $125 million in FY 2009 to address urgent humanitarian
needs created by high food prices in vulnerable populations abroad, particularly
in Africa. These funds provide the ability to act quickly and effectively in
cases where a rapid response is critical to saving lives.
The Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust is another resource to ensure that
the U.S. government can respond to emergency food aid needs. The Trust is not a
food aid program, but a food reserve administered under the authority of the
Secretary of Agriculture. The Trust is designed to ensure that the United States
can meet its international food assistance commitments. If the USAID
Administrator determines that Food for Peace Title II funds are insufficient to
meet emergency needs, the Trust is immediately made available. The Trust may
consist of any combination of cash and commodities. In addition, the 2008 Farm
Bill provided the Secretary of Agriculture with the ability to exchange
commodities in the trust for cash if the Secretary deems the action advisable
and the sale will not disrupt markets. Presently, the Trust has exchanged all
commodities, and holds only cash. The Secretary may invest those funds in any
short-term obligation of the United States or any other low-risk, short-term
instrument or security insured by the Federal Government.
Within USDA, FAS has the lead responsibility for the USDA-administered food
aid programs. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is responsible for procuring and
supplying commodities for the U.S. food aid donation programs.
In September 2007, USDA awarded a contract to begin a food aid quality
study. The non-profit organization Sharing U.S. Technology To Aid in the
Improvement of Nutrition (SUSTAIN) is working with USDA on the first two phases
of this study. The first phase involves the review of existing CCC contract
specifications for food aid commodities, starting with those for blended and
fortified foods. USDA will examine contracting practices, with the aim of
simplifying them and using more commercially acceptable methods. In the second
phase, USDA will establish a post-production commodity sampling and testing
regime based on sound scientific standards to ensure they receive the products
they contracted to purchase. Finally, USAID will conduct a longer-term study to
assess the effectiveness, both in terms of results and cost, of commodities
currently procured by CCC for use in these programs.
The interagency Food Assistance Policy Council, chaired by USDA’s
Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, coordinates U.S.
food aid policies and programs. The council includes representatives from the
Office of Management and Budget (OMB), USAID, the U.S. Department of State, and
USDA. At the staff level, USAID and USDA meet regularly to review and coordinate
plans. In addition, USAID and USDA work together to combine smaller shipments of
commodities into larger ones, maximizing the funds available for transportation.
Additional Information: For more information, contact: Food Assistance
Division, Office of Capacity Building and Development, FAS/USDA, Stop 1034,
1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250-1034; tel.: (202) 720-4221; fax:
Information about USDA food aid efforts is also available on the FAS Web
General information about FAS programs, resources, and services can be found