36 members of the House Ag Committee, including the committee’s chair and ranking member, are calling on USDA to tap into the nation’s strategic grain trust to combat hunger caused by rising food prices. Committee chairman David Scott and ranking member G.T. Thompson are among the lawmakers who have penned a letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack, as well as Agency for International Development administrator Samantha Power, asking them to use the reserves to increase American assistance to nations where hunger has increased significantly over the past two years. The letter cites the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and conflicts, most notably Russia’s invasion of Ukraine just as the two nations’ winter wheat crops are starting to emerge. Lawmakers noted USDA’s estimate that food insecurity had increased 32 percent in 2021, impacting over 1.2 billion people. They said that the trust was intended for use during times of exceptional need, and the ongoing crises justify use of the funds.
The strategic grains trust is named in memory of Bill Emerson, a Republican congressman who represented Southeast Missouri for 15 years. At the time of his death in 1996, Emerson was the lead sponsor of a bill encouraging the donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to needy individuals. In addition to funds, the trust can also hold physical supplies of wheat, corn, sorghum, and rice. No member of the Missouri congressional delegation was among the 36 signatures on the letter calling for use of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.