Coalition Stands up for Food for Peace

 

December 2017

 

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USA Maritime Counters Erroneous Arguments with Facts

 

Following an October U.S. Senate hearing that featured erroneous statements concerning the Food for Peace program, the coalition USA Maritime responded with facts.

 

The SIU is a member of USA Maritime; the coalition also includes American ship operators, maritime trade associations, and other maritime unions committed to protecting U.S. national security through a public-private partnership that features the U.S. Merchant Marine.

 

USA Maritime Chairman James L. Henry said, “Statements made during the hearing misrepresent the value proposition of shipping Food for Peace cargoes with the U.S. Merchant Marine pursuant to our nation’s cargo preference laws. Hiring Americans sailing on U.S.-flag ships, instead of foreign mariners, leverages transportation dollars our government already has to spend to ensure we maintain a U.S. Merchant Marine necessary to support our nation in times of war and national emergency.”

 

He continued, “For example, the U.S.-flag merchant fleet carried more than 90 percent of the supplies our troops needed in Iraq and Afghanistan at a fraction of the cost of other alternatives. Relying upon this partnership with the U.S. commercial fleet is a cost-effective alternative to replicating such sealift capacity by building military gray-hull ships and hiring more government employees. This approach saves taxpayers more than $1 billion in annual operating costs for vessels and related intermodal assets together with $13 billion in vessel capital costs. In contrast, data from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) and recent Government Accountability Office findings show that hiring Americans to ship Food for Peace cargoes adds just one percent to the program budget – less than $20 million annually to support a $1.7 billion program. Total program costs for ocean shipping – not just U.S.- flag shipping – amount to only eight percent of the budget. Moreover, for every dollar invested in U.S.- flag shipping, $3.14 is returned in tax revenue, which would otherwise be lost if we instead opted to support foreign sealift capability to move these government cargoes.”

 

Henry went on to cite government data “demonstrating the importance of food aid to sustaining our national defense sealift capability.” Specifically, a MARAD report shows the main reason for the recent decline of U.S. ships and crews is the decrease in U.S. government preference cargoes.

 

The USA Maritime statement quotes prior and current commanding officers of the U.S. Transportation Command expressing support cargo preference because it is vital to America’s sealift capability. For example, the current commander, Gen. Darren McDew, testified earlier this year, “Without cargo preference, our maritime industry is in jeopardy and our ability [to] project the force is in jeopardy.”

 

In an earlier, separate statement, the coalition noted, “Even though funding is the lowest in years, the need for Food for Peace is greater than ever. According to the USDA, 12 million metric tons of commodities are needed each year to fill food gaps in the 70 most food-insecure countries. The number of hungry people has increased to 925 million from 833 million at the end of 2002, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. In many cases, Food for Peace is the difference between life and death. And the program has served an essential role in helping stabilize countries, support foreign policy, and build important trade links for our farmers in countries like India, Poland, Romania, and Egypt.

 

“Unlike other foreign aid programs, the program does more than just send aid overseas,” the statement continued. “Food for Peace is a point of pride for the 44,000 American farmers, shippers, processors, port workers, and merchant mariners whose jobs depend upon the program. Food for Peace is not just a handout. It’s the sharing of American bounty and American know-how to help rescue those less fortunate from starvation and chronic food insecurity. By creating a uniquely sustainable public-private partnership between American faith-based organizations, U.S. industry, and the U.S. government, Food for Peace leverages private and public resources to make a meaningful difference for millions of people in a way that government alone simply cannot.”

 

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