Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said today that USDA donations will exceed $100 million in a swap of government surplus raw commodity stocks for domestic and international food through USDA's "Stocks-for-Food" initiative. Internationally, the barter initiative will benefit more than 700,000 children through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. Schafer spoke at the International Food Aid Conference Wednesday morning.
"We all face a serious concern in the challenge to obtain much-needed food for hungry people at home and abroad," Schafer said. "Processing, packaging and transportation costs add to three-fourths of food costs, while the price farmers receive at harvest is a much smaller factor. USDA has harnessed the increased value that the commodity markets place on the farmer's harvest with an initiative to help reduce the shortfalls in food donations."
USDA announced last year it would begin an exchange of uncommitted raw commodity inventories for food products to supplement USDA domestic and international food assistance. The July 2007 initiative, "Stocks-for-Food," resulted from Under Secretary Mark Keenum encouraging USDA's Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services to find a means to draw on the value of raw commodities to bolster donations to food banks and U.S. international food aid programs.
USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation acquires the inventories when producers choose to forfeit the commodities, rather than to repay the government for their marketing assistance loans. Bartering these commodities, rather than continuing to store them, eliminates storage costs to the government.
To date, USDA has bartered 1 million bushels of corn, 1 million bushels of soybeans, 7.3 million bushels of wheat, 456 tons of peanuts, 1,987 hundredweight of rice, and 79,329 bales of cotton.
Total processed foods acquired from the barter include 18.4 million pounds of canned vegetables, 7.6 million pounds of peanut butter, 15.7 million pounds of canned meats, 6,060 metric tons of vegetable oil and 7, 053 metric tons of corn-soy blend.
The bartered foods for domestic programs are distributed through The Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. States are distributing these products to thousands of local agencies, including food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries. The donated food products can supplement millions of meals for low income Americans.
Of a projected $115 million in supplemental food assistance, approximately $45 million has been used thus far to buy processed food for donation to domestic food banks and more than $11 million for through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.