The Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust (BEHT) is a special authority in the Agricultural Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill, that allows USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance to respond to unanticipated food crises abroad, when other Title II resources are not available.

The BEHT was originally authorized by the Agriculture Trade Act in 1980 as the Food Security Wheat Reserve, a reserve designed to hold up to four 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 for the purchase of U.S. commodities. 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 extraordinary and unforeseen food needs arise, the Secretary of Agriculture may authorize the release of funds at the request of the USAID Administrator for the purchase of U.S. commodities in order to address emergency food assistance needs. The BEHT enables the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance to meet urgent food needs without compromising its ability to provide assistance to other populations affected by disasters overseas. The trust currently holds more than $280 million.

Since 2005, the following drawdowns from the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust have included:

Fiscal YearDollar or Metric
Tonnage Drawdown


$282 million

Procure U.S. food commodities to bolster existing emergency food operations in six countries facing severe food insecurity–Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen.


$50 million

Purchase of 189,970 MT commodities and bags for South Sudan.

(Approximately $180 million total cost includes associated costs provided for by USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation.)


$149 million

Purchase of 344,820 MT commodities and bags for Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and North Korea.

($279.5 million total cost with associated costs included.)*


Remaining stocks of 915,349 MT sold 

Sold all remaining stocks:

  • Sold 260,370.65 MT on 4/23/08
  • Sold 500,049.02 MT on 5/23/08
  • Sold 154,929.48 MT on5/30/08
$242,526,887 (total value of sale)


700,000 MT

Released for Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan. 

($377.4 million total cost with associated costs included.)

*Includes outstanding costs provided in FY 2009 and 2010 for programming in prior fiscal years.