United States - Agriculture

13 - US - AG bi-multi

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15 - AG ranking absolute - US

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16 - AG ranking relative - US

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Agriculture integrated into overarching food-security focus

In 2016 (the latest year for which multilateral and bilateral OECD data is available), the US was the largest donor to agriculture and rural development, disbursing US$1.8 billion in official development assistance (ODA), according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This represented 19% of the total agriculture ODA provided by OECD DAC donor countries in 2016. However, relative to the size of its overall development funding, the US spends less (5%) than the average spent by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC; average: 7%).

The US provided US$283 million, or 16%, of its total agricultural ODA in the form of core contributions to multilateral organizations in 2016 (the latest year for which data is available). Well below the DAC average of 45%, this low share was mainly due to the US’ large bilateral portfolio on agriculture and food security.

The US was historically the largest funder to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a G20 initiative launched during the US presidency in 2009 to help implement the food-security pledges made that year. However, after providing a total of US$635 million to GAFSP between 2010 and 2017, the US announced in November 2017 that it would no longer fund the organization and has not appropriated funds to it since.

In 2018, the US disbursed US$1.1 billion to agriculture bilaterally. The top investment area was agricultural development, which received US$467 million, or 43% of US bilateral agriculture ODA (down from 55% in 2017). Agricultural alternative development describes projects which reduce illicit drug cultivation through other agricultural marketing and production opportunities. This is representative of the US’ overall policy focus on US national security concerns. Other investment priorities include agricultural policy and administrative management (US$435 million or 40%, up from 23% in 2017), agricultural alternative development (US$83 million or 8%), and rural development (US$56 million or 5%).

Food security is a key theme of the US’ work on agriculture

The focus on food security is reflected in the updated State Department and USAID’s Joint Strategic Plan FY2018-2022, which cites the US Global Food Security Strategy 2017-2021 as an instrument to implement its overall strategic objectives. US food security efforts encompass food assistance, agricultural and rural economic development, and nutrition.

The US’s flagship initiative is Feed the Future, which was codified in the Global Food Security Act of 2016 and in the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018. Feed the Future is the US’ largest bilateral agriculture program and uses a whole-of-government approach to align and coordinate various food and agricultural programs. USAID is the lead agency for the program. According to the US Government Global Food Security Strategy 2017 2021, Feed the Future focuses on 1) inclusive agriculture sector growth, 2) gender integration, 3) improved nutrition, 4) private sector, 5) research and capacity building, and 6) resilience. It places a special emphasis on smallholder farmers, especially women, the extreme poor, youth, other marginalized communities, and small and medium enterprises in 12 focus countries.

A critical part of the US’ agricultural and food security efforts are food assistance initiatives (in-kind food transfers and cash-based programs that provide means to acquire food). These functions, now part of Feed the Future, were authorized through 1) the Food for Peace Act (FFPA, also known as PL 480), 2) the Food for Progress Act, 3) the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program (McGovern-Dole Program), and 4) the Emergency Food Security Program, a growing component of US food aid (see table 1).

For FY2020, Congress once again rejected the president’s proposed cuts to agriculture and international food assistance, including Food for Peace and the McGovern-Dole program. Funding for the Food for Peace program stayed level at US$1.7 billion. There was a small increase in the McGovern-Dole program, raising the overall level to US$220 million in FY2020 from US$210 million in FY2019. In addition, the FY2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) remained at US$30 million.

Priority countries for Feed the Future

Africa: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda 

Asia: Bangladesh, Nepal

Americas and the Caribbean: Guatemala, Honduras

Table 1: US international food assistance programs and implementing agencies
Program Implementing Agency Purpose

Food for Peace Act (FFPA) - Title I: Economic Assistance and Food Security

Department of Agriculture (FAS)

Provides funding for concessional sales program and Food for Progress (see below)

Food for Peace Act (FFPA) - Title II: Emergency and Private Assistance USAID Provides agricultural commodities for non-emergency assistance through eligible organizations and authorizes agricultural commodities for both emergency and development food assistance programs
Food for Peace Act (FFPA) - Title III: Food for Development USAID Enhances food security and supports long-term economic development in the least-developed countries
Food for Peace Act (FFPA) - Title IV: Food for Progress Farmer-to-Farmer USAID Provides voluntary technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, and agribusinesses in developing and transitional countries
Food for Progress Department of Agriculture (FAS) Provides commodities on credit terms or on a grant basis to developing countries and emerging democracies
McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program Department of Agriculture (FAS) Aims to reduce hunger and improve literacy and access to primary education, especially for girls, through the provision of school meals and teacher training
Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP) USAID Provides cash-based food assistance in response to international crises to complement FFPA Title II


USAID and Department of Agriculture lead food assistance and agriculture initiatives

According to government data, the US global agriculture efforts are funded by 14 different agencies and implemented by 11 of these. Key entities involved in decision-making and implementation include:

USAID Leads on strategy and implementation of the US’ food security and agriculture programming, primarily through Feed the Future. USAID coordinates the initiative through its Administrator, who serves as the US Global Food Security Coordinator. USAID’s Bureau for Food Security (BFS) was established to manage Feed the Future, and the deputy coordinator for development for Feed the Future acts as the assistant to the administrator of the Bureau. The reorganization of USAID creates a new unit, the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, which will include BFS.

US Department of Agriculture primarily provides international food assistance through its various programs. It is also responsible for some training, capacity-building programs, and research activities in the US food-security portfolio. The Foreign Agricultural Service is the department’s main international arm. It implements Food for Progress and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, as well as the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) administers the Millennium Challenge Account, an initiative to provide development assistance to low-income countries and lower-middle-income countries that have committed to political, economic, and social reforms on economic development.

Congress is responsible for authorizing, overseeing, and funding the US’ agriculture and food security programs. There are several important Congressional committees responsible for the authorization of programming: the Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee and the House’s Agriculture Committee. As some food assistance is also authorized in foreign-assistance legislation, the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittees in both chambers are also responsible for making relevant funding decisions.

Other institutions of relevance: the US Development Finance Corporation, Department of Commerce, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, Peace Corps, African Development Foundation, the US Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.