A bipartisan collation of 21 senators have signed a letter to President Obama to “maintain funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food for Peace Program, also known as Public Law 480, in your Fiscal Year 2014 budget request to Congress.”
The senators, who are from all over the country, were responding to published reports that the Office of Management and Budget would be eliminating the multi-billion dollar program in favor of providing straight cash donations to nongovernmental organizations or the affected countries directly. In addition, Congress passed and the president signed a surface transportation bill last summer that reduced the percentage of food aid cargo that would be carried by U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed vessels.
The Food for Peace Program has been a staple of American diplomacy since its inception in 1954, bringing American-grown grain and food products aboard U.S.-flag vessels to the world’s hungry and afflicted. Besides helping people in need globally, it has provided steady employment for American farmers and merchant mariners, so they and their ships would be available to transport military cargo in times of crisis.
“Food for Peace provides economic benefits at home, stimulating our farm and transportation industries,” stated the letter of February 20. “This program is important to American farmers and shippers and developing nations around the world.”
Those signing the letter include Mark Pryor (D-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), David Vitter (R-LA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Al Franken (DFL-MN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), John Hoeven (R-ND), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Johanns (R-NE) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
During its winter meeting last month, the MTD Executive Board renewed its call to protect the nation’s cargo preference laws, including the Food for Peace Program, calling them “critical to the national and economic security.”