RELEASE:

Cochran, Wicker, Kelly Urge Use of American-grown Rice for Humanitarian Relief

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., along with U.S. Representative Trent Kelly, R-Miss., today joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers advocating for government procurement of U.S.-grown rice for use in “Food For Peace” emergency response efforts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are in the process of determining commodities for use in humanitarian relief shipments. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USAID Administrator Gayle Smith, the Mississippians joined lawmakers from other rice-producing states to ask that U.S.-grown rice be prioritized for delivery through “Food For Peace” and other relief programs.

“It is no secret that rice is the most consumed commodity in the world and is an excellent staple food in addressing hidden hunger,” the lawmakers wrote. “Milled U.S.-grown rice has a long history as an important part of both USDA’s and USAID’s ongoing food assistance programs. The recent addition of fortified rice to the U.S. government commodity master list will also provide new opportunities to address the devastating impact of acute micronutrient deficiencies.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-113) provided funding for food aid to international populations in need. In addition to “Food For Peace,” the food aid funding supports the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program and the Food for Progress Program. These programs help support food security where it is most in jeopardy and provide relief to conflict-stricken areas around the globe.

Rice is a leading commodity crop grown in Mississippi. The Mississippi Delta produced 13.6 million hundredweight of rice in 2014, with a $174 million production value.

The letter, spearheaded by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., was signed by Senators Cochran, Wicker, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., David Vitter, R-La., Bill Cassidy, R-La., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Representatives Kelly, Rick Crawford, R-Ark., Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-La., Mike Bost, R-Ill., Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., French Hill, R-Ark., Jason Smith, R-Mo., Charles Boustany Jr., M.D., R-La., Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., Steve Womack, R-Ark., John Fleming, M.D., R-La., Ted Poe, R-Texas, and John Garamendi, D-Calif.

Full text of the letter:

Dear Secretary Vilsack and Administrator Smith:

Thank you for your work in utilizing the bounty of the U.S. agriculture sector to provide food to the world’s hungry and to conflict-stricken areas around the globe, particularly through the use of the Food For Peace program. This partnership between American agriculture and global humanitarian efforts dates back over 60 years and we hope to see it continue to improve nutrition and food security globally.

As you know, in December H.R. 2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2016, was signed into law. This bill directly supports U.S. international food aid efforts by providing additional funding to deliver critically needed food aid to populations in need. The additional food aid funds not only support the continued success of critical programs, such as the McGovern-Dole Food For Education Program and the Food for Progress Program, but also provide the first significant increase in P.L. 480 funding in many years for the Food For Peace program.

The additional $250 million is to be directed towards supporting emergency response efforts to the ongoing refugee crisis and famine through in-kind food aid assistance. As you know, in-kind food aid contributions leverage the bounty of U.S. agricultural commodities to provide a safe and reliable source of food to populations in need.

It is no secret that rice is the most consumed commodity in the world and is an excellent staple food in addressing hidden hunger. Milled U.S.-grown rice has a long history as an important part of both USDA’s and USAID’s ongoing food assistance programs. The recent addition of fortified rice to the U.S. government commodity master list will also provide new opportunities to address the devastating impact of acute micronutrient deficiencies.

The U.S. rice industry also has a long and successful partnership with both the U.S. government and private humanitarian agencies and shares the goal of meeting the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations around the world. With a strong crop of rice this past year resulting in significant stocks, we see a clear opportunity to provide greater assistance in an even more economical fashion to help those in need as a result of the refugee crisis.

We ask that during the procurement process for the in-kind commodities used in the emergency response efforts in the Middle East that U.S.-grown rice, including fortified rice, be prioritized for delivery to those in need.

2/5/16