By Roberta Rampton and Christine Stebbins
DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department hopes to secure 10 percent of the funding for the new U.S. global hunger and food security initiative to put into agricultural research, USDA chief Tom Vilsack said on Thursday.
Congress has not yet finalized appropriations for the plan for fiscal 2010 but is discussing a range of $1 billion to $1.2 billion to be spent on agricultural development, Vilsack said in an interview.
"Our view is initially 10 percent of that ought to be considered for research," Vilsack told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Food Prize forum, noting the U.S. government continues to discuss how to implement the plan.
The Obama administration has said agricultural development will play a big role in its foreign policy.
The administration wants to spend as much as $3.5 billion over three years to help small farmers in poor countries grow more crops to reduce hunger and improve local economies.
The USDA will use its expertise in agricultural research and training to help with the project, Vilsack said.
The State Department, which is leading the initiative, has not yet determined how it will allocate the funding once Congress appropriates it, he said.
Decisions about the research projects will be made in concert with developing countries trying to raise small farmers’ yields, he said.
"It is not a top-down, heavy-handed approach. It is not, ‘Here’s our food, be grateful.’ It is, ‘We want to help, but we need to know from you what help you need,'" Vilsack said. (Editing by Steve Orlofsky)