With the start of a new White House administration comes the opportunity to solidify support for one of the nation’s most successful foreign aid programs – Food for Peace.
Signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954, Food for Peace (also known as PL-480) has provided American-grown food to hungry people around the world. These goods are delivered aboard U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed vessels, making it not just a foreign aid program, but also one providing jobs from farmland to seaports for Americans.
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 and maritime trade associations wrote President Donald 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 ship it 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 marked with American flags and proudly stating “A Gift 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 essential to providing for America’s national defense sealift capability.
The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils 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.
Approved 2018 MTD Executive Board Meeting