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Administration taps USDA emergency fund for food aid overseas

Six countries in Africa and the Middle East will receive $670 million in additional food aid to mitigate severe food insecurity, said the Biden administration on Wednesday. The assistance will mean the complete drawdown of a USDA emergency fund for the purchase of U.S. commodities for donation to hunger programs overseas.

It was the first time since 2014 that the government tapped the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. USAID Administrator Samantha Power and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack blamed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for driving up food prices and disrupting food supplies. Russia and Ukraine provide around 30% of the wheat on the world market. Ukraine is the No. 1 exporter of sunflower oil and a leading source of corn sold internationally.

“Today’s 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,” said Power.

The Emerson Trust, named after a Missouri congressman, holds money that can be used to respond to food crises overseas when other U.S. aid programs are not available. The trust’s $282 million will be used to buy food to bolster anti-hunger operations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen. USDA will also provide $388 million to cover transportation and other costs.

Officials have signaled for weeks that the fund would be activated under a mechanism that requires USAID to ask USDA to release the money. “As soon as we get the request, we will be able to move quickly,” said Vilsack earlier this week, citing USDA preparations that began after the February 24 invasion.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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