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Supporting the Farmers of America, Feeding the People of the World: Kansas Leadership in Food Aid


Farmers deserve our gratitude and support.

The United States is the most food-secure country in the world, thanks to the strength and determination of American farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers. With America’s robust resources, we have been committed to ensuring food security at home and around the world, and Kansas has been on the cutting edge of that effort for nearly a century.

In September 1953, Peter O’Brien, a farmer from Cheyenne County, Kansas, stood up at his local county Farm Bureau meeting to share an idea. He wanted to donate surplus Kansas grain to hungry people around the world. Over the course of the next several months, today’s Food for Peace program was crafted. The following year, one of Kansas’ favorite sons, President Dwight Eisenhower, signed parts of the program into law. That was the beginning of what is now a longstanding Kansas tradition of commitment, care and leadership in the international effort to address global hunger.

In early November 2022, I hosted David Beasley, Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning World Food Programme (WFP), in Kansas for an event to thank American farmers. Executive Director Beasley had just been in Egypt, Ethiopia and Rome, but he came to Kansas because he understands the impact that farmers in my state have had on international food aid. Kansas is the Wheat State, and wheat is the number-one commodity used in U.S. donations for international food aid. The “Big First District” of Kansas, specifically, is the third-largest agricultural-producing congressional district in the country, ranking number one in wheat and sorghum production. American farmers use their resources to feed, fuel and clothe the world, which is no small task—it takes grit, determination and a strong partnership between the public and private sectors. The WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization specializing in using American-grown commodities purchased from the U.S. government for international food assistance, and it is a great example of what we can do when this public-private partnership thrives.

Now, with the reauthorization of the Farm Bill upon us, we see that the Kansas legacy of international food aid is alive and well. Today, our county administers in-kind food assistance primarily through Farm Bill programs. The Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT) is one of the programs through which our country uses American products to address food security crises abroad. Since 1980, the United States has utilized the BEHT (originally authorized as the Food Security Wheat Reserve) six times to purchase American commodities for donation abroad during emergencies, thereby supporting the work of American farmers while promoting food security and peace throughout the world. It’s a noble thing to use our resources to help hungry people overseas, and programs like BEHT ensure that our government prioritizes the commodities of American farmers as we carry out this good work.

International food aid programs like those implemented by the WFP have an especially strong return on investment because they support American agricultural producers today while greatly reducing the need for conflict or war-related dollars tomorrow. We know that when food rations are accessible in developing countries, conflict decreases. International food aid is a way to stop wars before they start, and these Congressionally recognized programs empower American producers to feed hungry people around the world. BEHT, Food For Peace, the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program and many other international food aid programs carry on the Kansas legacy of confronting global hunger head-on.

The Farm Bill must be reauthorized, and as the Congressional Representative for the Big First District of Kansas, I’m looking forward to using my voice on the House Agriculture Committee to advocate for Kansans’ top priorities for the legislation. That means protecting crop insurance, promoting trade and ensuring that any oversight within the bill doesn’t needlessly handcuff American producers with red tape. Congress must think carefully before making changes to any of these programs, and we must ensure that international food aid programs remain strong in the Farm Bill. Around the world today, hungry people facing starvation in emergency situations rely on American farmers, who have provided nutrition in the place of starvation, created careers of dignity in the place of aimlessness and secured peace in the place of war.


CONGRESSMAN TRACEY MANN has represented the "Big First" District of Kansas in the U.S. House of Representatives since January 2021 and is a tireless advocate for Kansas agriculture and conservative Kansas values. Prior to representing the First District, Congressman Mann served Kansas as the 50th Lt. Governor of Kansas. Congressman Mann has worked in commercial real estate and served on the loan committee for First National Bank Syracuse.


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