Food for Progress

The United States Department of Agriculture has long been an advocate of agricultural enterprise here in America. Its support for the improvement and development of agricultural practices is not limited, however, to within these domestic borders. Through its Food for Progress program, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service can spread its agro-influence globally.

The Food for Progress Act of 1985 established the program as a means to help bolster the agricultural enterprises of fledgling democracies. American agricultural commodities are donated to qualifying communities in need. These commodities are then sold in local markets, with the proceeds going toward the funding of development projects, many with an agricultural focus.

The general process to initiate a Food for Progress program is very similar to that of a grant, with an applicant organization submitting a proposal based on eligible American agricultural commodities and the demonstrated need of a community. Applicant organizations can be private voluntary organizations, cooperatives, nongovernmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations, or foreign governments.

For a recipient community to be eligible, it must be in a country that meets certain priority need criteria. These criteria include per capita income at lower or lower-middle-income standard per the World Bank, greater than 20% of the total population as undernourished per the World Health Organization, and social structures supporting freedom as defined by Freedom House, including political rights and civil liberties.

The project should also involve measurable objectives and a preferred focus on the private agricultural sector. Tangible benefits to this sector can include development initiatives like improved marketing systems, training in more efficient agricultural practices, and updated farmer education. Selected projects are also vetted to ensure no effort would disrupt existing commercial markets.

Once a project is approved, the process is the same as for the other two major U.S. food assistance programs, Food for Peace and Food for Education. The applicant organization, now known as a “Cooperating Sponsor,” assesses its project’s specific needs and orders commodities for delivery to the recipient community. The USDA Kansas City Commodity Office directly handles all purchasing of the type and amounts of commodities requested by the Cooperating Sponsor.

The USDA evaluates the commodity bids by American producers and awards a commodity contract based on the lowest landed cost. The commodity contract establishes the date by which the goods must be at a U.S. port and ready to be shipped to the destination country, but all logistical arrangements for delivery are the responsibility of the cooperating sponsor per their agreement with the USDA, to whom a progress report is due every six months.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the Food for Progress program helped an estimated 6,950,000 beneficiaries, the majority of whom were located in Senegal and Nicaragua. Through its unique approach of fostering local agri-business, Food for Progress is not simply a food aid program but is also a development initiative targeting a critical sector within foreign economies. With continued support from the U.S. government, the Food and Progress program offers an exciting future as a leader in global food security assistance.

– Lauren Brown

Sources: US Food Aid and Security, FoodAid
Photo: WFP