Focusing on the Future of Food Assistance

By Michael Scuse, USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services

USDA’s food assistance and development programs serve a dual purpose: to meet the immediate needs of hungry people, and to show their countries how to rejuvenate their agricultural sectors and increase their capacity to trade. We accomplish these goals in cooperation with other U.S. government agencies and with private-sector partners ranging from non-governmental organizations to research institutions to agribusinesses. And we are always looking for ways to be more effective.

So this week, at the International Food Aid and Development Conference (IFADC) in Kansas City, we got back to basics, discussing steps we are taking to operate our international aid programs more efficiently to ensure that program dollars go directly to eliminating hunger and poverty. We focused on how USDA can strengthen our partnerships with academia and international relief and development groups, as well as with local and international companies. After all, these organizations have the know-how and expertise that allows USDA to leverage limited funding to make a broad and enduring impact.

Food for Progress is just one of the programs through which USDA is successfully partnering with the private sector. Among the efforts currently underway as part of that program:

  • This year, East African Breweries, a subsidiary of the Diageo Corporation, will buy sorghum from Ugandan farmers for its in-country processing facility. Thanks to a USDA grant, Mercy Corps is providing the farmers with technical assistance and training to help them access financial services, increase their yields and market their crops.
  • We joined with TechnoServe and Cargill to strengthen Mozambique’s poultry and feed industries, creating a successful model that TechnoServe is now replicating in Kenya with additional USDA support.
  • In Tanzania, USDA and Catholic Relief Services are working with maize farmers to introduce soybean intercropping and also connect the farmers with private buyers.
  • With technical support from USDA, U.S. trade associations, and non-profit charitable organizations, Imperial Foods Company in Cameroon is manufacturing affordable and nutritious noodles for the commercial market and for food aid, using imported U.S. commodities and other ingredients.

The IFADC is the only annual event to bring together U.S. interests involved in providing international food assistance from farm to table. About 450 people from 20 countries attended this year’s event, where I was honored to deliver keynote remarks.