United States - Agriculture


Agriculture is integrated into an overarching food-security focus 

In 2020, the US was the fourth-largest donor to ‘agriculture and rural development,’ disbursing US$1.1 billion in official development assistance (ODA), according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This represented 12% of the total agriculture ODA provided by OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor countries in 2020. However, relative to the size of its overall development funding, the US spends significantly less (3%) than the average spent by members of the OECD DAC (DAC average: 6%).  

The US provided US$253 million, or 22%, of its total agricultural ODA in the form of core contributions to multilateral organizations in 2020 (DAC average: 47%). This low share was mainly due to the US’ large bilateral portfolio in agriculture and food security. Top recipients included the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA;14% of total agriculture ODA), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO; 5%), and the African Development Fund (ADF; 2%). 

In 2020, the US disbursed US$884 million to agriculture bilaterally (including US$150 million in earmarked funding to multilateral organizations), significantly less than the 2016 peak of US$1.8 billion. The top investment area in 2020 was ‘agricultural policy and administrative management,’ which received US$653 million, or 74% of US bilateral agriculture ODA. This area has seen significant growth in the last five years, increasing steadily since 2017 (US$309 million). The second-largest area of investment was ‘agricultural development’ with US$108 million, or 12% of ODA to agriculture, which has seen a clear decline since a peak of US$974 million in 2016. The third-highest investment area was ‘agricultural alternative development,’ which received US$82 million, or 9%. 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. 

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

US food security efforts encompass food assistance, agricultural and rural economic development, and nutrition. The focus on food security is reflected in the updated State Department and the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Joint Strategic Plan FY2012-2026, which cites the US Global Food Security Strategy 2022-2026 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’ largest bilateral agriculture 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 and is led by USAID, in cooperation with the US Office of Agricultural Policy and the Office of Global Food Security. Feed the Future focuses on 1) improving agricultural production and markets and creating new opportunities for security and prosperity; 2) strengthening community resilience; 3) reducing hunger and improving nutrition, especially among mothers and children; and 4) 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 small and medium enterprises in 20 focus countries (see box). 

Priority countries for Feed the Future

Africa: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia

Asia: Bangladesh, Nepal

Americas and the Caribbean: Guatemala, Honduras

A critical part of the US’ agricultural and food security 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 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 assistance (see table 1). 

President Joe Biden’s FY2023 budget request holds steady on funding for the FFPA (US$1.7 billion), the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program (US$230 million), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD; US$43 million). The Biden Administration has indicated that it views agricultural development as key to relieving global hunger, a problem that the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically exacerbated. The current food crisis has also been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as access to Ukrainian agricultural goods have been impeded by the Russian military, and sanctions on Russian agricultural products have limited the global supply. To address this, the FY2023 presidential budget request prioritizes US$1 billion for “bilateral agriculture and food security;” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened the ‘Days of Action on Global Food Security’ in May 2022, which announced US$300 million in additional emergency food assistance; at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June 2022, Biden announced an additional US$2.8 billion in US government resources, bringing the US’ total investment in the global food security crisis to US$5.6 billion since the start of the war in February 2022. 

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, US global agriculture efforts are funded by 14 different agencies and implemented by 11. 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 created a new unit, the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, which will include BFS. In October 2021, the Biden Administration announced a new Global Food Security Strategy for Feed the Future worth US$5 billion, aiming for “inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth”; “strengthened resilience among people and systems”; and a “well-nourished population, especially among women and children.”  

The 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 (FAS) 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).   

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), through the Millennium Challenge Account (which are country government organizations that administer their MCC compact), provides development assistance to low-income and lower-middle-income countries that have committed to political, economic, and social reforms on economic development.  

US Congress is responsible for authorizing, overseeing, and funding 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 (see ‘Main Actors’).