USA Maritime, a group representing U.S.-flag shipping interests, is protesting a recommendation in President Obama's 2014 budget that the Food for Peace program be significantly altered, saying it could greatly reduce the amount of cargo moving on U.S.-flag ships.
“USA Maritime is severely disappointed that the Obama administration has moved forward with this misguided proposal to effectively eliminate the long-standing and successful Food for Peace program,” said James L. Henry, chairman of USA Maritime.
In an article posted on its Website Wednesday
, "Obama's Budget Fixes America's Wacky Food Aid Program—Sort Of," Atlantic Magazine
said the budget included “a total overhaul of the $1.5 billion program, which will allow aid groups to instead buy up to 45 percent of their food in local markets - that is, in the countris or regions closest to the disaster areas they're intended for - a major change that aid groups and politicians have been urging for more than a decade.”
The proposal won praise from the group Bread for the World
, which said the budget "reflects a serious attempt at compromise by balancing tough spending cuts with additional revenue." It said the budget "includes important reforms to our international food aid, allowing greater flexibility and increasing efficiency so that it reaches millions more people.”
Henry, however, warned "the administration’s proposals to shift funding to a system of global food stampvouchers, 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 said it "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.”
“Despite recent letters from Congress to the White House that demonstrate strong, bipartisan support for this program, the administration is still advocating an unnecessary and harmful change to our flagship international aid program," Henry said. "We continue to view this proposal as shortsighted and seriously damaging to both national security and merchant mariner jobs.
“Food for Peace is not only one of our premiere diplomatic tools, but it is also an important compoment 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 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," he explained.
"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," Henry said.
Henry said the Food for Peace program has already been cut 35 percent since 2008 despite increased need for this aid overseas.
USA Maritime is a coalition of ship-owning companies, maritime labor organizations and trade associations. - Chris Dupin