Issue Deep Dive
US / Agriculture
Last updated: October 12, 2023
The US food security program is a whole-of-government approach, led by USAID under the Feed the Future Initiative, which began in 2010. The initiative is focused on strengthening agricultural growth, nutrition, and resilience. It works across agencies, the private sector, civil society, universities, and researchers. It also partners with other governments. USAID works in 20 target countries as well as at the regional level. Feed the Future is supported by the Global Food Security Strategy 2022-2026. This work is underpinned by the Global Food Security Act, first passed in 2016, then reauthorized in 2018 and in 2022. There is also a Global Food Security Research strategy that works in tandem with the overall global food security work.
Addressing food security is done holistically, with a focus on reducing poverty and stunting and an emphasis on equity and inclusion aiming for an agricultural-led economic growth for women, girls, youth, and marginalized populations. It seeks to work through climate smart innovations to help communities adapt to climate change and to help COVID-19 recovery through improved food production and market systems.
The US was the third-largest DAC donor to agriculture in 2021.
The US’ prioritization of agriculture within its broader development program in 2021 (2% of total ODA) was much lower than the 6% average for DAC donors in that year, making it last among DAC donors, in relative terms. Supporting global food security, however, has become an important priority for the US.
Relative funding to agriculture ODA has been declining since 2017, with a shift from 5% of total ODA in 2017 to 2% of total ODA in 2021.
In 2021, the US disbursed US$988 million to agriculture bilaterally, including US$139 million in earmarked funding through multilaterals, which was significantly less than the 2017 peak of US$1.4 billion. The top investment area in 2021 was ‘agricultural policy and administrative management,’ which received US$751 million, or 76% of US bilateral agriculture ODA. This area has seen significant growth in the last five years, increasing steadily since 2017 (US$321 million). The 2nd-largest area of investment was ‘agricultural alternative development’ with US$110 million, or 11% of bilateral ODA to agriculture, which has fluctuated over the past five years. This project area includes operations to reduce illicit drug cultivation through other agricultural marketing and production opportunities, in line with the US’ overall policy focus on national security concerns within all ODA sectors. The 3rd-largest area was ‘agricultural development’ with US$76 million, or 8% of bilateral ODA to agriculture, which has seen a clear decline since a peak of US$764 million in 2017.
The US provided US$164 million, or 14% of its total agricultural ODA, in the form of core contributions to multilateral organizations in 2021 ( DAC average: 49%). This low share was mainly due to the US’ large bilateral portfolio in agriculture and food security. Top recipients included the World Bank’s IDA (7% of total agricultural ODA) and the FAO (4% of total agricultural ODA).
The table below summarizes the US’ more recent commitments to multilaterals working on agricultural development. Some of these commitments are considered core funding to multilaterals while others will be earmarked funding through multilaterals from the US.
US food security efforts encompass food assistance, agricultural and rural economic development, and nutrition: The focus on food security is reflected in USAID’s JSP FY2012- FY2026, which cites the US Global Food Security Strategy 2022-2026 as an instrument to implement its overall strategic objectives. A critical part of these efforts are food assistance initiatives, including in-kind food transfers and cash-based programs that provide means to acquire food. These functions, now part of Feed the Future, are authorized through:
- the Food for Peace Act;
- the Food for Progress Act;
- the McGovern-Dole Program; and
- the Emergency Food Security Program.
There were slight increases in the FY2023 budgets for the Food for Peace Act (US$1.8 billion) and the McGovern-Dole Program (US$243 million). IFAD remained consistent in FY2023 at US$43 million. The Biden Administration has indicated that it views agricultural development as key to relieving global hunger, a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian war in Ukraine. The FY2024 Biden budget contains US$1.2 billion for food security and agricultural programs.
The US’ largest bilateral agriculture initiative is Feed the Future: Feed the Future is led by USAID, in cooperation with the US Office of Agricultural Policy and the Office of Global Food Security, and focuses on:
- improving agricultural production and markets and creating new opportunities for security and prosperity;
- strengthening community resilience;
- reducing hunger and improving nutrition, especially among mothers and children; and
- increasing the exchange of ideas, technologies, and products.
It places a special emphasis on smallholder farmers, especially women, the extreme poor, youth, other marginalized communities, and SMEs. In 2022, Congress passed the reauthorization of the Global Food Security Act, which provides authorization for US global food programs for another 5 years.
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