• Food Aid Funding Fight in Future

    by Deborah Willenborg | May 09, 2017
    Vital food aid
    Children-Eating-Bowls-of-Rice,-Food-Aid
    WASHINGTON, DC – The recently passed Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill included $2 billion for food aid programs that the U.S. rice industry supports, but signals from the Trump Administration indicate American humanitarian efforts may not exist in the future.

    The FY 2017 bill funded Food for Peace programs at $1.466 billion, including a one-time increase for famine crises of $134 million, and $202 million for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program for the remainder of FY 2017.

    Last month, USA Rice joined more than 90 agriculture and humanitarian organizations in sending a letter to House and Senate appropriators requesting they, at a minimum, maintain FY2016 funding levels and U.S. leadership in fighting against famine and global malnutrition.

    “According to the World Food Programme, 795 million people, or one in nine, are currently suffering from chronic hunger, while one in three suffer from malnutrition daily,” the letter read.  “Now is the time for America to continue our leadership role in the world by showing full support for Food for Peace, a program that has touched 3 billion lives…and the McGovern-Dole Feeding program which fosters knowledge through food.”

    Meanwhile President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget blueprint, ironically-called “The Skinny Budget,” actually zeros out the McGovern-Dole programs, and many expect Food for Peace to also come under fire from the Administration.

    “We are happy with the commitment shown by Congress, not only to our moral duty to help those in need, but to our farmers who grow the food vital for these aid programs,” said Blake Gerard a Missouri rice farmer and chairman of USA Rice Farmers.  “But it seems like we’re all going to have to work hard to demonstrate the value of these programs to President Trump.”

    Gerard said the rice industry especially wants to keep food aid programs going since they have worked so hard to create enriched rice that solves many malnutrition problems, is affordable, long-lasting, and accepted by those in need.

    “Rice is the most widely-used commodity in current food aid programs for a reason,” he said. “President Trump can score a win-win by continuing to help those in need, and using U.S. products to do it.”
  • GAO Report Confirms USAID Using Cash More Than Commodities; More Flexibility Likely Unnecessary

    by Deborah Willenborg | Apr 14, 2017
    Difficult to digest
    GAO-Report-on-USAID-Using-Cash
    WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier this week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan agency known as the “supreme auditor” for the federal government, released a report evaluating food aid oversight and implementation.

    The report honed in on the additional budget flexibility granted to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Food for Peace program that was provided in the 2014 Farm Bill.  This allowed USAID to spend as much as 20 percent of their budget in an unrestricted manner – up from 13 percent.  This has resulted in more money going into cash and vouchers as opposed to being spent to directly purchase U.S. commodities.  This was the first review since the bill was implemented into how USAID is applying the additional budget flexibility.

    After reviewing the report’s findings, House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) offered a statement indicating that it confirmed his suspicions:  “USAID has used the vast majority of its new authority on cash, vouchers, and [Local and Regional Purchases] - modalities not previously authorized under [the Food for Peace program].”

    Conaway added, “Not only does this report solidify my concerns about USAID's ability to monitor the use of cash and vouchers overseas, but also that demands for even more [budget] flexibility are premature.”

    USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward shared similar concerns, saying, “I think this report bolsters our argument for maintaining or reducing the amount of cash and vouchers that USAID can use through food aid programs, clearing the way for in-kind donations of American-grown commodities, like rice.”

    Ward added, “Chairman Conaway is right, it’s premature for USAID and the implementing organizations to ask for additional flexibility to use cash and vouchers, purchasing food from our competitors overseas, when they aren’t even using all of the flexibility of funds they’ve been given.”

    But preserving the in-kind commodity shipments are not the only challenge ahead.  

    Ward said, “In recent months, our critical food aid programs have been put on the chopping block by the administration and appropriators in proposals to curb federal spending.  So it’s important that we continue to share the valuable success stories generated through these programs over the years.”

    USA Rice continues to call for additional food aid shipments of nutritious, U.S.-grown rice and now for the industry-developed fortified rice.  In January USA Rice led the effort to send a letter to President Trump asking for the prioritization of American-grown in-kind commodity contributions through international food aid programs.
  • Fortified Rice Study Clears Way for More Rice in Food Aid as Administration Looks to Eliminate Humanitarian Programs

    by Deborah Willenborg | Mar 17, 2017
    Fortified rice gets a thumbs up
    Fortified-Rice-Study-USAID rice bag
    WASHINGTON, DC -- Last week the World Food Programme (WFP) released a much-anticipated study on rice fortification that should pave the way for greater use of fortified rice in U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and WFP food assistance programs.  The study demonstrated that rinse-resistant coated fortified rice and extruded fortified rice perform the same in terms of taste and impact on malnutrition.  USDA is already using fortified rice in the McGovern-Dole school feeding program but the tonnages have been limited by lack of access to rinse resistant coating technology.  The results of this study should lead to greater use of all available fortification technologies in food aid programs and help bolster the use of U.S.-grown rice.    

    “The study concludes that extrusion and rinse resistant coating are both viable techniques for fortifying rice and that both fortification technologies are effective delivery devices for key nutrients” said Bobby Hanks, president of Louisiana Rice Mill and chairman of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee.  “This is welcome news for the U.S. rice industry, which should now see benefits from greater programming of fortified rice and overall use of rice in feeding programs.”  

    USA Rice will be working closely with USAID on minor revisions to the commodity specifications for fortified rice with the expectation that these specifications will be released within the next few months.  In addition, more work will be needed to ensure that certain nutrients will be effectively absorbed and that the common practice of pre-soaking rice in many recipient countries will not affect the bioavailability of key micronutrients in fortified rice.

    “USAID has made it clear that once this study was completed, the agency would use all fortified rice in many of their feeding programs” said Hanks.  “With looming budget cuts that may negatively impact U.S. food aid programs, including the McGovern-Dole program that has provided more than 22 million meals to children in 41 countries, it is heartening to see that U.S.-grown fortified rice has received a positive evaluation from WFP in improving the nutritional quality of food aid delivered to vulnerable populations.”
  • U.S. Rice Headed to Africa in Advance of Global Hunger Crisis

    by Deborah Willenborg | Mar 09, 2017
    Help is on the way
    US-Rice-Headed-to-Africa
    ARLINGTON, VA – Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized the purchase of 28,120 MT of Number 2 or better long grain milled rice headed to Conakry, Guinea, as part of the Food For Progress (FFPr) program.  FFPr relies on the monetization or barter of a commodity, to fund local agricultural value chain efforts conducted in country by Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) to help develop a profitable ag sector which in turn helps local economic development.  

    USA Rice has participated in monetization programs for many years and in the last year has had two successful programs, the current one in Guinea and another in Burkina Faso where 6,300 MT has been monetized.  This is largely the result of increased global demand for food assistance and USA Rice’s ongoing efforts to enhance outreach to PVOs conducting food assistance programs.  

    “USA Rice will continue to work with PVOs and key USDA and U.S. Agency for International Development decision makers to encourage the use of both milled and fortified rice in response to the pending global hunger crisis,” said Bobby Hanks, president of Louisiana Rice Mill and chairman of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee.  “Additionally, we are anticipating final release of new specifications for fortified rice that will clear the way for increased tonnage in 2017 as U.S. stakeholders seek to assist in the battle against malnutrition.”  

    USA Rice forecasts a very active year in food aid in 2017 for both milled and fortified rice.  Numerous sources, including the Family Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET), predict that 2017 will see a global famine of catastrophic proportions, with up to 70 million people, across 45 countries, requiring enhanced food assistance.  Already four countries, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are in the beginning stages of severe famine with several others slipping into food insecurity and malnutrition.  

    “This points up the critical importance of food aid,” continued Hanks.  “The U.S. government is facing budget cuts in this area yet USA Rice is working hard to preserve this program because these programs are good for our industry and they’re the right, humanitarian thing to do.  And now that fortification technology has been officially approved, fortified rice has been recognized as a superior, cost-effective food that can provide relief from hunger, address nutritional deficiencies, and is already well accepted by beneficiaries.”
  • Fortified U.S.-Grown Rice Promoted at Food Aid Conference

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 13, 2016
    Click image to enlarge infographic
    Fortified-Rice-Infographic
    DES MOINES, IA – This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) held a joint 2016 International Food Assistance and Food Security Conference where USA Rice heavily promoted advances in fortified rice.  

    The gathering provided an ideal setting for information sharing and collaboration by the broader food aid industry stakeholders, including USA Rice.  Both USDA and USAID work independently to carry out a number of international food aid programs that often utilize U.S.-grown rice as part of their food distribution packages including Food for Peace, McGovern-Dole Food for Education, and Food for Progress programs.
     
    Several hundred participants attended multiple break-out sessions and panels that focused on the importance of in-kind food aid.  One panel looked at increasing the operational efficiency of in-kind food assistance and another provided examples for the many private voluntary organizations (PVOs) that help deliver food aid overseas to better leverage the availability of in-kind contributions.
     
    During his presentation on Food Aid Quality Review, Dr. Rufino Perez, USAID's Food Technologist and one of the leads on the initiative to promote fortified rice, emphasized the benefits of fortified rice for future U.S. government sponsored feeding programs.  Specifically, Dr. Perez noted that rice is a unique commodity, already consumed by millions, and the addition of fortified rice to the USAID and USDA master list of approved commodities holds the potential to "make significant strides in the fight against malnutrition."  

    He went on to say that there will be increasing quantities of rice in future food assistance programs as "USAID has committed to use this product and will change all future rice procurement to include fortified rice."  USDA is already beginning to use fortified rice in McGovern-Dole school feeding programs.  Dr. Perez will become the lead on all USAID nutrition programs in the office of Food for Peace in 2017.
     
    “It’s important for the U.S. rice industry to attend these broader stakeholder events to learn about the ongoing development of technologies and other innovative solutions to increase the nutritional composition of U.S. food aid,” said Sarah Moran, senior director for international promotion with USA Rice who attended the conference.  “Dr. Perez further solidified the importance of programming fortified rice into food aid packages, as a new, cost-effective, and innovative way to reverse global malnourishment in children.”

    USA Rice continues to advocate to USDA and USAID for the prioritization of U.S.-grown rice through their international food aid programs. This year, industry has seen the first increase in food aid shipments of rice in the last five years due to USA Rice efforts, exporting nearly 90,000 MT of rice.
  • USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee Names New Chairman

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 27, 2016
    Bobby Hanks at the Sara Moulton party
    on Randy Thibodeaux's farm
    Bobby-Hanks-at-Sara-Moulton-Party
    ARLINGTON, VA -- As a member driven organization, USA Rice has more than 40 boards, committees, and subcommittees to address the myriad issues that face the U.S. rice industry.  An area of continued interest is food aid, which comprises about 3-5 percent of U.S. exports.  USA Rice is proud to announce a new chairman to USA Rice’s Food Aid subcommittee, Bobby Hanks.  Hanks is president of Louisiana Rice Mill which he helped co-found in 1999.  

    “Bobby has great institutional knowledge of food aid issues for rice and will help this subcommittee push for greater utilization of rice in U.S. government food assistance programs,” said Hugh Maginnis, USA Rice vice president of International.  

    “The introduction of fortified rice is a real game changer for the U.S. rice industry and we have the potential to increase our exports in this area,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “There are many legislative and administrative hurdles that we will face in the coming months and years but I am confident that we as an industry will be successful with Bobby at the helm, because we have an excellent product and rice is the most consumed commodity in the world.”

    USA Rice will be exhibiting at the upcoming USDA/USAID International Food Security Conference, October 10-11 in Des Moines, Iowa where information will be distributed to attendees and fortified rice samples will be available for view.
  • Role of Rice in Food Aid is Major Topic of Discussion

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 20, 2016
    Food aid firsthand at Riceland
    USAID-at-Riceland
    STUTTGART, ARKANSAS – Last week, representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) joined Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward and staff from USA Rice; the Arkansas Rice Federation; the offices of Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, and Congressman Rick Crawford; the Arkansas Farm Bureau; the Agricultural Council of Arkansas; and Riceland Foods and Producers Rice Mill to discuss the role of rice in current U.S. food aid policies.  

    Discussions focused primarily on effective ways to utilize rice in the U.S. government’s food aid programs, including the use of fortified rice as it has the potential to resolve persistent micronutrient deficiencies in disadvantaged populations – a high priority for U.S. programs.  

    “I find great value in face-to-face meetings like these because it helps everyone around the table understand the goals and priorities each group has,” said Carl Brothers, chief operating officer for Riceland Foods, who led the meetings.  “We appreciate the opportunity to take stakeholders into the mill and out in the field to show them firsthand the realities we are dealing with.  I think we all now have a better understanding of what they are trying to do and what they are capable of doing with rice in their programs, and they leave us with a solid grasp of some of the many challenges we as an industry are facing.”

    Following the meeting, FAS, USAID, and USTR staff went on a mill tour and visited a nearby farm to participate in harvest activities.
  • Fortified Rice is a Game Changer for Food Aid

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jul 22, 2016
    Sharing the nutritional bounty
    Rice Hands
    WASHINGTON, DC -- Throughout the last year, the global food supply chain has faced unprecedented pressure from challenging weather conditions due to El Niño, the continued outpouring of refugees from Syria and the Middle East, and a steep decline in oil and commodity prices.  The demand for not just food, but proper nutrition, continues to grow exponentially.  The U.S. is responding to that demand with its agricultural bounty combined with new investment in nutritional science to combat global micronutrient deficiencies, a condition called hidden hunger.

    The U.S. rice industry in particular has always played a lead role in feeding the world, providing hundreds of thousands of metric tons of rice to vulnerable populations.  Through a long term partnership with both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. rice has fed millions around the world through school feeding, agricultural value chain development, and emergency relief programs. The new addition of a fortified rice product to U.S. government feeding programs will feed more people around the world, but more importantly, will also help eradicate some of the most persistent micronutrient deficiencies that hold millions back from proper development and growth.  

    Fortified rice is either a coated or extruded kernel that contains eight critical micronutrients, including Vitamin B, Vitamin A, and Iron.  The kernel is then blended back in with regular long grain rice in a way that provides optimal levels of nutrition.  Preliminary reports from U.S. Government field tests acknowledge the effectiveness of fortified rice:  it is accepted by those consuming it because it tastes and looks like regular rice, and it is absorbed in sufficient quantities to improve health and conquer hidden hunger.

    “Work still remains to be done on the procurement and logistical side for this new product to gain traction in the food assistance supply chain,” says Jamie Warshaw, USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee chairman.  “We believe that fortified rice will increase the demand for U.S.-grown rice and will be a game changer - for rice growers and processors, for global feeding programs, and most importantly for the beneficiaries of the improved nutritional qualities of rice.  USA Rice is committed to this effort and is working closely with U.S. Government entities to ensure that fortified rice has the maximum impact on those in need.”

  • USA Rice Promotes Rice in Food Aid to Decision Makers

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 18, 2016
    Ask us anything about food aid
     w.IP-Sarah-Moran-at-USAEDC-mtg-160718

    ARLINGTON, VA -- At the annual USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) Attaché Seminar sponsored by the U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council meeting last week, USA Rice Director of International Promotion Sarah Moran participated in a panel discussion of food aid as a tool in developing international markets. Moran gave an overview of USA Rice as an organization and highlighted fortified rice as a near ideal vehicle to deliver highly digestible nutrition and essential micronutrients to undernourished populations.

    At the meeting were representatives of 60+ commodity organizations receiving market development funds from FAS, FAS Washington staff, and a large number of FAS attachés who will soon be reporting to overseas posts.

    "This venue offered USA Rice the unique opportunity to introduce fortified rice as a desirable commodity in a range of food aid scenarios to agricultural attachés stationed around the globe," said Jim Guinn, USA Rice vice president of international promotion.  "The headquarters staff of FAS and these attachés have a role in making decisions on the food commodities utilized in in-kind food aid programs administered by USDA, and as such were a prime target of our food aid message." 
  • 25,000 MT Food Aid Sale to Ivory Coast

    by Colleen Klem | Jul 14, 2016
    Easing the burden
    US Food Aid 

    ARLINGTON, VA -- USDA's Food Assistance Division has approved the sale of 25,000 MT of long grain rice to the Ivory Coast as part of their Food For Progress Program (FFPr).  FFPr allows for U.S. commodities in key food assistance markets to be sold by humanitarian groups who then invest the proceeds in the development of a critical agricultural value chain.  It is commonly referred to as "monetization."  In the case of Ivory Coast, the sale of long grain rice will be invested in the development of the poultry value chain.  

    This program is an important component of the U.S. government's desire to invest in helping critical markets achieve agricultural sustainability and eventually transition to commercial markets.  

    The Ivory Coast, traditionally a commercial market for USA Rice has descended into food insecurity after years of civil unrest and economic instability.  USA Rice worked closely with industry, monetization agents on the ground in the Ivory Coast, and the USDA to determine the appropriateness of this sale to a former commercial market.  After concluding the sale would not create any market distortion and that it made sense to conduct food assistance activities in a formerly commercial market, USA Rice encouraged and supported the sale of rice for food assistance purposes.

    USA Rice has been working closely with both USAID and USDA to emphasize both the availability and advantageous prices of U.S. origin rice.  As rice is the most consumed commodity in the world, it is easily accepted by the target population of food assistance programs, making it a highly effective tool to combat hunger.  

    "This is the first of what we believe will be multiple new sales of U.S. rice to the U.S. government for use in food assistance programs in the coming year," said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  "We are continuing our close collaboration with government agencies to increase rice use to help vulnerable communities around the world."  
  • U.S. Rice Looks to Answer Call on USDA Food Assistance Grants

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jul 06, 2016
    Food aid gets a nutrition boost from fortified rice
    Fortified-Rice-Kernels
    WASHINGTON, DC -- Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its FY2016 food assistance grants.  USDA will provide U.S. commodities and financial and technical support to food-insecure communities in Africa, Asia, and Central America through the Food for Progress Program and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition (McGovern-Dole) Program, benefitting more than 6.1 million vulnerable people worldwide.  U.S.-grown rice is expected to continue as a major player in both programs.

    For FY16, USDA committed $160 million to fund eight projects under the Food for Progress program that aims to improve the agricultural supply chain in target countries through the monetization of U.S. commodities, including rice.  USDA also committed $195.5 million to support nine projects through the McGovern-Dole Program, that is aimed at reducing hunger, boosting school enrollment, and improving literacy through school feeding programs and related activities.

    The 2016 USDA commitment includes both direct financial support and the donation of U.S.-produced rice and other commodities.  

    “Rice is the most requested commodity in USDA’s McGovern-Dole program and we expect programming will increase even more with the new introduction of fortified rice, which has eight essential micronutrients targeted to fight hidden hunger,” says USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Warshaw.  “It’s great to see the U.S. government invest in nutrition to help millions of people.  It makes our industry feel proud to be a part of creating a food-secure world.”
  • USA Rice Efforts Result in Congressional Action on Rice Food Aid

    by Lee Brinckley | Feb 05, 2016
    Click here to hear Senator Boozman
    talk about where U.S. rice fits into the crisis.
    John-Boozman
    WASHINGTON, DC -- As reported in the USA Rice Daily January 8, 2016, Congress has made available an additional $250 million to assist with the Syrian refugee crisis.  USA Rice immediately began working with allies in Congress to make the case for why U.S.-grown rice should be a part of the solution for this devastating humanitarian crisis.

    USA Rice Vice President for Government Affairs Ben Mosely said, “We wanted to explore new options to prioritize U.S.-grown rice for these commodity purchases, so we had several conversations with the offices of Senator John Boozman (R-AR), Representative Rick Crawford (R-AR) and many other rice state legislators about the strong rice crop last year and ample supplies that could provide much needed nutrition to Syrian refugees.”  

    Senator Boozman and Representative Crawford agreed that something needed to be done now and jointly wrote a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and the United States Agency for International Development Administrator, Gayle Smith.  Eighteen Senators and Representatives signed onto this bipartisan letter which states:  “It is no secret that rice is the most consumed commodity in the world and is an excellent staple food in addressing hidden hunger…We ask that during the procurement process for the in-kind commodities used in the emergency response efforts in the Middle East that U.S.-grown rice, including fortified rice, be prioritized for delivery to those in need.”

    “The U.S. rice industry is able and prepared to provide rice that is needed in food assistance deliveries, including long grain which is preferred by many of the countries absorbing the refugees and also medium grain rice which is typically preferred by Syrians,” said Jamie Warshaw, USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee Chairman and Louisiana rice miller.  “Additionally, both long and medium grain rice can be fortified to provide seven essential micronutrients.”
  • USA Rice Hosts Workshop on Fortified Rice

    by Deborah Willenborg | Oct 22, 2015
    From left: John Miller and Dr. Yi Wu (Wright Company), Jamie Warshaw (FRMCo),
    and Jim Guinn (USA Rice)
    USA-Rice-Hosts-Fortified-Rice-Wkshp
    WASHINGTON, DC -- Yesterday, USA Rice hosted a fortified rice workshop here for more than 30 private voluntary organizations (PVOs), government agencies, USA Rice members, and other interested parties.  Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided information on micronutrient fortification and the promising future for fortified rice in U.S. government feeding programs.  Fortified rice provides eight essential micronutrients that can help growing, hungry children become healthier.  

    Because fortified rice can fill a much needed gap in the U.S. government’s effort to tackle “hidden hunger” and addresses nutrient deficiencies in the diets of children, USAID has said that every future request will be for fortified rice.

    Farmer’s Rice Milling Company (FRMCo) won the first tender for over 4,000 MT of fortified rice and participated in yesterday’s meeting.  Jamie Warshaw, CEO of FRMCo and chairman of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee, said, “Rice is the most consumed commodity in the world and the potential to address the effects of hidden hunger is tremendous.”

    “There was strong support from USDA, USAID, and also the participating PVOs on the future of fortified rice in helping feed the world’s hungry,” said Riceland’s Kevin McGilton, who participated in the event.  “We are excited to see this new development increase the programming of rice in food aid.”

    Food aid exports account for 3-5 percent of U.S. rice exports – a small but important sector that is expected to grow in the coming years.
  • Warshaw Testifies on Importance of In-Kind Contributions in Food Aid Programs

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 30, 2015
    Jamie Warshaw
    Jamie Warshaw at Food Aid Hearing
    WASHINGTON, DC -- Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee held a public hearing on U.S. International Food Aid Programs.  USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Warshaw testified, along with five other witnesses representing various private volunteer organizations (PVOs) and commodity groups.  

    “Unfortunately, despite all the efforts of the United States and other countries, there is still a significant number of people across the world that are food insecure,” said Warshaw during his opening remarks.  “Therefore, I appreciate efforts by USAID and various members of Congress who are looking for ways to make food aid programs more effective, but I have serious concerns about many of the policy proposals and reforms that have been laid on the table.”

    Several of the proposals seek to reduce or eliminate the use of in-kind contributions to food aid and replace them with a cash or voucher system.  Warshaw highlighted recent World Food Programme and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that emphasized the lack of oversight and diversion of aid when cash or vouchers were used.

    The United States has been one of the largest suppliers of food aid, providing $80 billion in food aid since World War II.  “When we provide U.S. commodities to the world’s hungry, each farmer, processor, packer, handler, and cargo deliverer can feel good about the work they’re doing to help alleviate hunger,” said Warshaw.  “Additionally, these U.S. commodities are distributed in bags that feature the label ‘From the American People.’  This is a clear statement of the commitment the U.S. has to fighting global food insecurity and is a symbol that is intended to help foster international good will.”

    Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR) commented on the new fortified rice developments for food aid and questioned whether the rice industry would be able to provide this product now.  Warshaw enthusiastically replied that the rice industry can provide a fortified product and in fact has been providing enriched rice to the domestic market and some export markets for decades.  

    Responding to Congressman Ralph Abraham’s (R-LA) question about the food safety checks for U.S. rice versus other countries, Warshaw stated that the U.S has one of the world’s safest food supplies.  

    “In many other rice exporting countries, there are issues with water quality, storage and farming practices, unregulated pesticide and herbicide use, and little to no third party oversight of the safety of the food product.  The U.S. has a strong system of objective checks that ensure the quality and safety of our products.”

    Warshaw continued, “The U.S. rice industry has invested significant capital, time, and effort in being a timely and reliable supplier of food aid.  Looking forward, we are developing fortified rice and rice products aimed to reduce global hunger and malnutrition, particularly in women and children.  We have had great success so far but global food insecurity is a challenge we’re still facing.  The continued delivery of in-kind food aid is necessary to help avoid many of these potentially serious consequences of program reforms.”
  • Fortified Rice is Integral Part of Solution to Global Hunger

    by Deborah Willenborg | Sep 03, 2015
    Conference attendees
    IP-Fortified-Rice-Workshop-SMALL-150903 
    MANHATTAN, KANSAS – More than 40 participants from the rice industry, academia, U.S. government agencies, and private companies gathered at Kansas State University (KSU) last week to develop a unified working agenda and promote production capacity of fortified rice in the United States.  

    USA Rice has been collaborating closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the World Food Program, to ensure the increased use of fortified rice in the U.S. government's global feeding programs.  This event was the latest to emphasize the importance of a new fortified rice formulation in addressing global hidden hunger.

    With fortified rice being more readily recognized as an important tool in the fight against global malnutrition, the primary area of focus is resolving outstanding logistics issues in the complicated production chain in the U.S.  This requires ongoing close coordination and communication between the purchasing agencies, fortification entities, and the rice millers.  

    Jamie Warshaw, a Louisiana rice miller and chairman of the USA Rice Food Aid Subcommittee, attended the conference and said, “While the opportunities are enormous for the U.S. rice industry, obstacles to increased use of fortified rice remain, including, for instance, customer acceptance.  The KSU event was an important first step in bringing the major stakeholders together and coordinating a plan forward.”  

    USA Rice is planning an informational session in Washington, DC next month to clarify some of the remaining questions about fortified rice and facilitate its use.  While the USA Rice session will include many important stakeholders, the target audience will be the end users - the humanitarian organizations who will work with U.S. government agencies to program increasingly greater amounts of fortified rice in new and ongoing feeding initiatives.

  • U.S. Rice Recognized at Food for Peace Celebration

    by User Not Found | Jul 22, 2015
    USA Rice's Sarah Moran (l) and USAID Acting Assistant Administrator Thomas Staal
    IP-US-Rice-Recognized-at-Food-for-Peace,-SM-and-Thomas-Staal--150722
    WASHINGTON, DC -- USA Rice was one of the selected exhibitors at a Capitol Hill celebration yesterday on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Food for Peace program.  Food for Peace has provided life-saving food assistance through the use of in-kind food donations including rice, to more than three billion people in vulnerable communities around the world.  The event was hosted by the Chairmen of the House Committee on Agriculture and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.  House Committee on Agriculture Chair Mike Conaway (R-TX) thanked USA Rice, other attendees, and the American people for their willingness and desire to feed the world's hungry.
     
    "This was an important opportunity for USA Rice to showcase longstanding participation in, and commitment to, the U.S. global feeding programs and to provide information to Congress, USAID, and Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) on the introduction of a new fortified rice product to address hidden hunger," said Jim Guinn, USA Rice's vice president of international promotion.
     
    While the U.S. has made progress in addressing overall hunger, hidden hunger -- in the form of severe micronutrient deficiencies -- remains a major impediment to proper development in many vulnerable communities.  Statistics from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) note that more than two billion people still suffer from hidden hunger.
     
    Fortified rice is the first new product introduced to U.S. global feeding programs as a result of research and testing conducted under the auspices of both USAID and USDA.  Extensive studies have shown that fortified rice is widely accepted by communities worldwide and is effective in addressing some of the most severe deficiencies such as vitamin A and anemia.  
     
    Fortified rice contains levels of iron, thiamin, zinc, vitamin A, folic acid, and other B vitamins, formulated in a way that allows for maximum nutrient uptake.  "The look and taste of fortified rice is just like regular milled rice," says Dr. Yi Wu, Chief Innovation Director of the Wright Group, a company that produces fortified rice.  "Recent trials in Cambodia and the historical (in some cases mandatory) use of fortified rice in the Philippines and Costa Rica, have shown both wide scale acceptance of the product and efficiency in nutrient bioavailability to address hidden hunger.  Rice is one of the most consumed foods in the world and through fortification, the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations will be met in an appetizing, culturally-appropriate way."
     
    Fortified rice is now part of USAID's Master List of commodities and it is expected that several PVOs will begin to specify this product in feeding rations in both USDA's McGovern Dole school feeding programs and USAID's Food for Peace programs as a cost effective and culturally appropriate way to address the persistent challenge of hidden hunger.

  • House Ag Committee Pushes Back on Administration Efforts to Gut Food Aid Programs

    by User Not Found | Jun 24, 2015
    Wants answers
     Food-Aid-Hearing,-Rep.-Abraham
    WASHINGTON, DC – The House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing today with Phil Karsting, Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and Thomas Staal, Acting Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID to review international food aid programs in light of controversial efforts to reform the programs by the Obama Administration and some Members of Congress. 

    USA Rice has been working in conjunction with a coalition of leading U.S. agricultural commodity groups to oppose the Food for Peace Reform Act and the Administration's proposal that will result in in-kind food aid programs being replaced with cash vouchers and the local and regional purchase (LRP) of food.

    In-kind food aid, or the donation of commodities to countries facing food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition, and civil conflict, has been a critical pillar of U.S. foreign policy and a symbol of the commitment and generosity of U.S. farmers for more than sixty years.

    Based on testimony presented, it was clear that in-kind food aid has saved countless lives, fed millions of school children, and helped several nations transition during times of crisis and disaster.  

    U.S. food assistance programs are constantly seeking to achieve greater efficiencies and impact and have recently introduced several new micronutrient fortified products, including fortified rice, to help greater numbers of women and children achieve health and become productive citizens.  

    And while there may be situations where other forms of food assistance can be helpful, it also became clear based on questions from Committee Members during the hearing, that there remain several unanswered questions regarding the transparency, effectiveness, and implementation of both cash voucher and local and regional purchase programs.  

    “I represent probably the largest row crop district in the nation … we grow corn, soybeans, and a lot of rice … Can you provide an explanation of how you will police the use of cash vouchers for LRP and make sure that money is not being diverted?” asked Louisiana Congressman Ralph Abraham during the hearing.

    “If the goal of food assistance is helping nations achieve food security and transition during times of crisis, it remains unclear to us whether any alternate approaches can reach the same number of beneficiaries and impact as in-kind food aid,” said Betsy Ward, president & CEO of USA Rice.  “Food aid remains an important pillar of USA Rice's programming and keeping in-kind food aid as part of U.S. government assistance programs will continue to be a top line policy initiative for our work this year.”

    Ward pointed out that food aid is also a significant component of U.S. foreign policy and that switching from in-kind food programs could result in a loss of control on the ground.

    “We all want aid going to where it’s needed and where it should be going,” she said. “It’s too easy to divert cash for other non-aid uses.”