A prominent coalition of American-flag carriers and maritime unions is urging the new administration to support a program that’s vital to U.S.-flag shipping, in addition to offering many other benefits.
In late January, the head of USA Maritime (to which the SIU is affiliated) wrote to President Trump about the Food for Peace program (and two related ones). In particular, coalition Chairman James L. Henry encouraged him to oppose the ill-advised efforts to convert the program to a cash giveaway.
The chairman began his message with some background. “The United States has been a leader in alleviating hunger around the world for more than 60 years,” Henry wrote. “Through a variety of programs under the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Americans have been helping to feed billions of hungry people around the world through our in-kind food donation programs, including Food for Peace (P.L. 480), Food for Progress, and Food for Education…. We are writing to you today to ask for your support for these programs, which are unique among foreign aid programs and therefore deserve special consideration.”
He continued, “The Eisenhower Administration signed into law the Food for Peace Program, landmark legislation designed with two core functions in mind. Americans would generously provide food to hungry people across the world as a diplomatic tool, creating good will and helping to prevent potential conflicts before they could start. In addition, the law required that the food be grown in the United States by American farmers, and shipped on American ships with American crews, thereby leveraging the quality and reliability of U.S.-grown commodities and sustaining the national defense sealift capacity provided by the U.S.-flag maritime industry. The United States Merchant Marine has been a proud partner with our colleagues in the agricultural community to keep this program going strong for more than six decades….
“Unlike other foreign aid programs,” the USA Maritime letter noted, “Food for Peace has always had broad, bipartisan support 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. The previous administration seemed determined to ‘reform’ the program by shifting it from an inkind based program that provides a domestic benefit, and turning it instead into an overseas cash giveaway program with minimal oversight or accountability. Continuation of such policies would be disastrous for American jobs and American workers.”
Changing the program to a monetary giveaway would “kill American jobs and waste taxpayer money,” Henry said. “We ask you to ensure that the use of Americangrown in-kind commodity contributions remains fundamental to these programs and that the use of U.S.-Flag ships and American mariners will be prioritized by your Administration.”
The letter also described the maritime industry as fundamental to American economic, national, and homeland security.
The letter concluded that the aforementioned programs collectively “are critical to the continued success of the United States Merchant Marine, and they promote domestic agriculture while serving as a diplomatic tool to express the generosity of the American people. The programs have worked, and will continue to work, so long as the federal government does not try to ‘reform’ them in such a way that undermines their original intent.”
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