Congressmen to White House: Food for Peace ‘Critical’

 

May 2013

 

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A bipartisan group of 30 United States Congressional representatives on April 5 wrote to President Obama urging his support of America’s Food for Peace program created by Public Law (PL) 480.

 

Days later, the industry coalition USA Maritime blasted the administration’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014, which included a recommendation to severely alter the program in part by diverting almost half its funding.

 

The program is widely acknowledged not only as a proven success, but also a key factor in the nation’s capacity to maintain a viable U.S. Merchant Marine.

 

In their letter, the representatives pointed out, “Since 1954, Food for Peace has enabled the United States to play a leading role in responding to international food assistance needs and ensuring global food security. In recent years, Title II of Food for Peace, which is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, has become the largest vehicle for U.S. international food aid shipments. Under Title II, U.S. agricultural commodities are shipped to developing countries to provide emergency relief to those facing food shortages and to support broader development objectives. In fiscal year 2011, Food for Peace donated approximately 1.5 million metric tons of U.S.-grown Title II emergency and development food aid to more than 46 million food-insecure people in 48 countries including Kenya, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

 

“Food for Peace is also critical to supporting employment among U.S. farmers and merchant mariners. The purchase of food from U.S. farmers and its subsequent shipment on U.S.-flagged vessels has helped support U.S. farm production and preserve the U.S. Merchant Marine. Reductions in funding for this program – or changes in how it operates – would significantly reduce the amount of U.S. farm products our nation could provide to those in need around the world. It would also threaten our national security preparedness by reducing the domestic sealift capacity on which our U.S. military depends.”

 

Signing the letter were U.S. Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.), Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), Charles W. Boustany Jr. (R-La.), Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), Gary G. Miller (R-Calif.), Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.), Michael M. Honda (D-Calif.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Renee L. Ellmers (R-N.C.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), David P. Joyce (R-Ohio), Tom Latham (R-Iowa), Alan S. Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Stephen Lee Fincher (R-Tenn.), Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), Michael G. Grimm (R-N.Y.), Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Richard M. Nolan (D-Minn.), Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

 

Meanwhile, USA Maritime – whose affiliates include the SIU, several other maritime unions, shipowners, operators and other maritime trade associations – criticized the budget proposal as “an unnecessary and harmful change to our flagship international aid program. We continue to view this proposal as shortsighted and seriously damaging to both national security and merchant mariner jobs.”

 

The group further pointed out that the program has benefited more than 3 billion people in 150 countries and is an important symbol of America’s goodwill. “Unlike other foreign aid programs, this time-tested program does more than just send aid overseas,” the statement read. “Food for Peace is a point of pride for the 44,000 American farmers, shippers, processors, longshoremen, and merchant mariners whose jobs depend upon the program. Food for Peace leverages private and public resources to make a meaningful difference for millions of people in a way that Government cash handouts simply cannot.

 

“Food for Peace is not only one of our premier diplomatic tools, but it is also an important component of our national security. By ensuring a steady flow of American cargo shipped by Americans on U.S.-flag ships, PL-480 helps maintain our U.S. Merchant Marine, which is critical for our ability to support our troops and first responders in time of war or national emergency. In fact, American mariners on commercial U.S.-flag vessels delivered more than 90 percent of defense cargo to military posts in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Department of Defense, without the base of food aid cargoes to help sustain the commercial U.S.-flag fleet, we will not be able to sustain the national defense sealift capability our military needs without significant additional Federal expenditures.

 

“The administration’s proposals to shift funding to a system of global food stamp vouchers, or to shift to purchases of food aid from allegedly cheaper foreign suppliers instead of donating wholesome commodities grown by American farmers will be harmful to our U.S. Merchant Marine, harmful to our national defense sealift capability, harmful to our farmers and millers, and bad for our economy. USA Maritime strongly encourages Congress to reject the administration’s misguided proposal, maintain the current program and sustain PL 480 Food for Peace funding. Doing so will ensure that this program continues to focus on the reliable export of safe and nutritious U.S.-grown commodities to those in need overseas.”

 

The coalition concluded that during a time when “unemployment remains a major obstacle to economic growth, shipping American jobs overseas is the last thing any administration should be proposing.”

 

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