The Powerful Case Backing Food for Peace

 

July 2017

 

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SIU President Michael Sacco revisits the many benefits of Food for Peace, including boosts to America’s national and economic security

 

In some ways, the budget proposal released by the White House in late May underscores the fact that our work in the nation’s capital never ends. While it’s understood that such documents are only starting points, I’m equally certain that our industry will suffer if the SIU and our allies throughout maritime don’t aggressively speak up at times like these.

 

Of particular note to Seafarers, the budget falls severely short of the separately approved authorization level for the U.S. Maritime Security Program (MSP); it harms the Export-Import Bank; and it “zeroes out” the PL-480 Food for Peace program. While our friends on Capitol Hill assure us that they do not intend to follow through on any of these requests, we must remain forever vigilant against these kinds of foolhardy proposals.

 

In recent years, I have often used this space to discuss the vital importance of MSP and the Ex-Im Bank. Food for Peace also must not be overlooked, because it’s a cornerstone of American- flag shipping and it’s also one of the most successful aid programs in our nation’s history. On that note, I was glad to see House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) conduct a hearing in early June that focused on Food for Peace (see our coverage beginning on page 4).

 

Signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954, Food for Peace or PL-480 has provided American-grown food to hungry people around the world. Since its implementation, Food for Peace has fed more than 3 billion people in more than 100 countries. The food is grown by American farmers. It is moved by American transportation workers via truck, rail and/or barges to American ports where dock workers load it onto American ships. This process directly involves nearly 45,000 workers. If the other domestic jobs related to PL-480 are included, that number swells to around 100,000.

 

In January, a coalition of U.S.-flag ship owning companies, maritime unions (including the SIU) and maritime trade associations wrote to President Trump seeking his administration’s support for Food for Peace. Known as USA Maritime, this coalition pointed out PL-480 has maintained strong bipartisan support throughout its 60-plus years “because it yields a domestic economic benefit by promoting American jobs while also serving to help others abroad. For decades, the program has been working well as it was originally intended despite relentless attacks on the agricultural and maritime communities.”

 

Among those attacks was a pilot program a couple years ago to take some of the money used for Food for Peace and simply give it away overseas with a minimum of oversight and accountability. As USA Maritime noted in its letter, “continuation of such policies would be disastrous for American jobs and American workers.”

 

When PL-480 cargo arrives at its foreign destination, the food is contained in bags and boxes proudly stating “From the American People.” These offerings can only help the image of the United States as the beacon of hope and freedom.

 

In addition to the domestic jobs supported by the program, military leaders have noted it is essential to maintaining a strong and viable U.S.- flag merchant fleet which is critical to providing for America’s national defense sealift capability.

 

The SIU will continue to fight for the Food for Peace program. It is a proven winner – here at home with good American jobs and national security implications, and overseas with food given by the American people to those in need.

 

Get Well Soon

 

It would be an understatement to report that everyone in the SIU was very upset about what recently happened to Congressman Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), who has been a great friend to our union and to the entire U.S. Merchant Marine. He represents what is arguably the number one Jones Act district in the country, and has stood by our side in every legislative fight over the last few years.

 

We of course are pulling for him as he recovers from the shooting, and we’ll continue to support him as he’s always backed us.

 

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