Food for Peace Backers to Stand Firm (7/2)

 

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USA Maritime, to which the SIU is affiliated, recently posted the following news item:

 

Advocates of U.S.-Flag Fleet Will Stand Firm in Defense of PL 480, Rep. Duncan Hunter Says

 

Supporters of the American Merchant Marine in the U.S. House of Representatives will continue to defend the PL 480 Food for Peace program, says Rep. Duncan Hunter. In an interview published in the June 20 issue of IHS Fairplay, the California Republican said delivery of food aid by American mariners aboard U.S.-flag ships is vital to maintaining America’s military and sealift capability. “People understand that as a nation’s merchant fleet and its navy goes, so goes the nation,” Hunter told Fairplay’s Senior America Correspondent John Gallagher. “If you lose your maritime capability‚Ķ your ability to project naval power or economic power can wither on the vine.”

 

Hunter was among the Congressional supporters of the American Merchant Marine who sent a strong message on June 19 when the House of Representatives rejected an amendment to implement the Obama administration’s proposal instituting a voucher plan in place of shipments of PL 480 food aid on American ships. The vote took place as the House considered amendments to the Farm Bill. The final tally against the amendment was 220-203. Since the entire Farm Bill failed on final passage, opponents of our industry may well have another opportunity to mount an attack on the Food for Peace program in the not-too-distant future.

 

Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. “We’re not going to let them cut the food aid program,” Hunter told Fairplay. “That’s the president’s proposal, but in the House we control the budget.”

 

The legislation to supplant the use of U.S.-flag ships in the Food for Peace program was submitted by Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). It would have taken half the funding for PL 480 and converted it to a cash scheme in which taxpayer money would be wired or handed to foreign interests without accountability or transparency. The cash transfers could be used for anything, not just food, unlike the procedures in place under the PL 480 program, which requires that all funds be used for the purchase and delivery of wholesome U.S.-grown commodities.

 

“It’s a military issue,” Hunter says. “During the wind down in Afghanistan there are millions of tons of cargo that are going to have to be brought back. That’s not going to be the navy, that’s going to be our merchant marine.”

 

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