Bush Administration authorizes humanitarian food assistance for citizens of Iraq

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2003 - The Bush Administration today authorized the availability of urgent humanitarian food supplies for the people of Iraq.

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman and Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew S. Natsios announced the immediate release of 200,000 metric tons of wheat from the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, with another 400,000 tons to be made available as needed. A portion of the wheat from the reserve will be exchanged for rice, so that a combination of commodities will be available to feed the people of Iraq.

"President Bush has assured the people of Iraq that they will have the food and medicine they need," Veneman said. "Today's action is part of a closely coordinated U.S. effort to prepare for the humanitarian consequences of conflict and to ensure that the Iraqi people have the help they need to attain freedom and prosperity in a liberated nation."

"The United States is committed to ensuring that there is minimal disruption to the Iraqi food distribution system. Today's donation will go a long way to ensuring that the people of Iraq continue to have access to food," said Natsios.

The first shipment of wheat is expected to begin moving next week, and more wheat and rice will follow over the next several weeks. Another 400,000 tons will be available and shipped as needed. The commodities will be provided through P.L. 480, Title II, the U.S. government's major humanitarian food aid program administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has prepositioned water, blankets, shelters, medical kits and other relief supplies to help the people of Iraq.

The United States is working in close partnership with international institutions and other nations as well as private voluntary organizations to ensure the rapid delivery of humanitarian relief for Iraq.

The Emerson Trust is an emergency reserve administered under the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture. It is available for humanitarian relief in developing countries, allowing the United States to respond to unanticipated food crises. U.S. food aid programs under Title II are currently fully allocated this fiscal year, and use of the reserve will help ensure that sufficient commodities are available to respond to needs in Iraq without affecting U.S. food aid commitments elsewhere in the world. The reserve was reauthorized through 2007 by the 2002 Farm Bill.

USDA Contact: Alisa Harrison (202) 720-4623
USAID Contact: Ellen Yount (202) 712-4052

(202) 712-4320