America’s foreign agricultural assistance provides significant domestic benefits by boosting demand for U.S. exports while making more food available to U.S. consumers and helping to guard against the import of pests and diseases, a new report says.

Agricultural aid also contributes to national security and global stability by reducing poverty and lifting incomes in aid-dependent countries, according to the report commissioned by the Board for International Food and Agriculture Development and released Wednesday at the World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines, Iowa.

U.S. foreign agricultural spending through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Agriculture Department and other agencies totaled $1.41 billion in 2017, accounting for 4.2% of total nonmilitary assistance and 0.04% of total federal spending

“A vibrant agricultural sector is fundamental to building a thriving society,” said Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, which helps operate BIFAD, a presidentially appointed advisory board for USAID. 

“Thanks to agricultural development aid from USAID and others, public research and land-grant universities are able to play a vital role in advancing agricultural capacity of the developing world.” 

The report says developing countries account for about $90 billion in demand for U.S. agricultural exports, and U.S. aid contributes to those sales by lifting incomes in recipient countries. 

U.S. aid also helps protect Americans by combating animal-borne diseases that can be transmitted to humans and has provided measures to address problems such as aflatoxins, which are produced by a mold that grows in peanuts, corn, and grains. “Many of the solutions researchers have found to be effective in developing countries are also relevant for controlling aflatoxin in the United States, resulting in reduced losses,” the study says. 

Meanwhile, helping developing countries grow their agriculture systems has resulted in U.S. consumers getting access to tropical foods or offseason fruits and vegetables, the report adds. 

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