• Commodity Groups Ask Trump to Keep Food Aid American-Grown

    by Deborah Willenborg | Jan 26, 2017
    A theme that resonates
    WASHINGTON, DC – Earlier today, several commodity organizations providing the bulk of the in-kind food aid contributions by the United States sent a letter to President Trump asking him to maintain and strengthen the role that U.S. farmers play in ensuring global food security.

    The letter highlights the “impressive, proven record,” that the U.S. maintains as the global leader in saving and improving lives through U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) food assistance programs.  

    “While President Trump has not specifically addressed food aid, we feel the rice industry’s approach is definitely in line with his overarching philosophy of promoting U.S. products abroad,” said USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely.  “U.S. taxpayers contribute significant dollars to the global food aid effort and we have ample supplies of safe and affordable food to give.”

    The mutually beneficial approach of providing in-kind contributions through international food assistance programs has allowed the U.S. to touch the lives of more than three billion people in over 150 countries since 1966.

    “USA Rice was glad to be a part of this call to action to the new administration,” said Sarah Moran, USA Rice senior director for international trade and market development.  “U.S.-grown rice has historically been a big part of the donations sent abroad through USDA and USAID’s food assistance programs.  We know this is a priority for the industry and have been working long and hard to improve rice’s use in the various programs as a healthy and nutritious alternative to simply handing over cash.”
  • 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.
    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.”
  • 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.”
  • 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
    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
    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.”