U.S.-flag interests object to reduction in food aid cargo preferences

The following is the text of a letter to members of Congress from USA Maritime:


Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Committees of Jurisdiction:

USA Maritime is a coalition of ship owning companies, maritime labor organizations, and
maritime trade associations committed to promoting and protecting the U.S.‐flag Merchant
Marine. USA Maritime represents virtually every U.S.‐flag vessel participating in the U.S.‐
foreign trade.

We write to express our support for the U.S. international food aid programs, and urge support
for the bipartisan compromise on food aid in the bill proposed by the House Agriculture
Committee. The House bill includes reforms that make these life‐saving programs more
efficient and effective in this tight budget environment, while preserving the benefits that
enabled these programs to enjoy decades of bipartisan support.

The U.S. has consistently provided leadership on global hunger issues not only because it is the
right thing to do, but also because it is in our nation’s national security and economic interest.
The shipment of international food aid cargoes supports 33,000 U.S. jobs, $523 million in U.S.
household earnings, and $2 billion in U.S. economic output. Moreover, according to the U.S.
Transportation Command and industry studies, the availability of food aid cargoes to the U.S.‐
flag Merchant Marine under our nation’s cargo preference laws is essential to sustaining the
national defense sealift capacity needed by the Department of Defense to respond to war and
national emergency.

USA Maritime therefore expresses its profound disappointment and concern with Section
100124 of the Highway Bill (H.R. 4348). This provision was not germane to the bill, was added in
conference at the last moment without any public scrutiny or transparency, and was never
considered by either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate. The provision guts
the cargo preference program for the shipment of international food aid by reducing the
reserved percentage of cargoes for U.S.‐flag vessels by one third. In doing so, the provision
undermines the economic benefits of these programs, threatens the viability of the U.S.
Merchant Marine, and therefore undermines our national defense sealift capability, making the
provision very short‐sighted policy.

James L. Henry
USA Maritime

By Professional Mariner Staff