Despite a bipartisan effort in the U.S. House of Representatives in late June that defeated a proposed amendment to the Farm Bill that would have severely cut the Food for Peace Program, efforts are underway again to challenge the highly successful program when House and Senate conferees meet to craft a compromise Farm Bill.
The MTD will continue to work with its affiliates and Port Maritime Councils to make sure Food for Peace (also known as PL-480) remains intact to help those in need around the world.
PL-480 was created in 1954 during the Eisenhower administration. It has received consistent support from Republican and Democratic administrations as well as Congress during its nearly 60-year history. The program takes food and grains grown by American farmers; and then moves the goods by barges, rails and trucks to ports where dockworkers load the commodities onto U.S.-flag commercial vessels to be delivered by American mariners to locations around the world. An estimated 44,000 Americans depend on PL-480 for their jobs.
However, the program has come under attack from those who would rather send cash overseas instead of U.S.-grown commodities. In 2012, Congress through the Surface Transportation Act reduced the requirement that 75 percent of PL-480 cargo be carried aboard U.S.-flag vessels to 50 percent. This year, the White House budget proposal covering the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for Fiscal Year 2014 sought to transfer some of the funds used for shipping PL-480 cargo to cash outlays for non-governmental agencies and foreign governments. (USAID oversees the Food for Peace Program.)This was the proposal defeated by the House in June.
Members of Congress from both parties, as well as the U.S. Navy League and the American Farm Bureau Federation, have called for retention of the Food for Peace Program. During the MTD Convention last month, Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA), Duncan Hunter(R-CA), Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) all expressed their strong support for PL-480. Delegates to the convention called on the MTD to “fully stand behind the Food for Peace Program, and unconditionally reject any further erosion of it.”
In addition, a July report issued by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction criticized the USAID for its lack of oversight in verifying that cash payments went to where they were directed. The report noted “waste and mismanagement of resources.” In response, a former government official noted the agency “does not have the oversight capability to implement the administration’s proposed changes to the food aid program.