The Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust

The Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT) is a special authority in Agricultural Act of 2014 that allows the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Food for Peace (FFP) to respond to unanticipated food crises abroad, when other Title II resources are not available.

The BEHT was originally authorized as by the Agriculture Trade Act in 1980 as the Food Security Wheat Reserve, a reserve designed to hold up to 4 million metric tons of wheat, later broadened to include a number of other commodities. In 1998, the reserve was renamed the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. In 2008, as global food prices spiked, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sold the remaining stocks (about 915,000 MT), converting the trust into an all cash reserve. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to invest the funds in low-risk, short-term securities or instruments to maximize the trust’s value. The BEHT is under the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture, with the USAID Administrator overseeing the release and use of the funds.

When unforeseen food needs arise, the Secretary of Agriculture may authorize the release of funds for the purchase of U.S. commodities in order to quickly meet humanitarian needs. The BEHT enables the Office of Food for Peace to meet urgent food needs, without compromising its ability to provide assistance to other needy populations. After this drawdown, the trust holds approximately $265 million.

Recent drawdowns from the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust include:


$180,000,000, including $50 million from BEHT

Purchase of commodities and associated costs for South Sudan. Includes costs provided for by the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.



Remaining 915,000 MT of stocks sold; $279,466,300

Purchase of 325,920 MT of commodities for Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and North Korea.*


500,000 MT

Released for Ethiopia and Eritrea. 


200,000 MT

Released for Sudan. 


201,089 MT

Released for Iraq and Africa. 


200,000 MT

Released for Africa. 


275,000 MT

Released for Southern Africa. 


247,798 MT

Released for Southern Africa. 

*includes outstanding costs provided in 2009 and 2010