The Food for Peace food aid program is one of our most important cargo preference programs. It creates quality jobs for American mariners during peacetime, provides an efficient and cost-effective means of maintaining essential national defense sealift readiness capability, and it serves as a transparent, reliable, and time-tested tool for fulfilling America's diplomatic and humanitarian objectives. The FY19 budget request zeroes out funding and eliminates this vital program entirely.
Cargo preference programs like this one account for almost all of the revenues of the US.-flag international fleet according to the Congressional Research Service. Since 1954, the size of the government owned fleet has been restricted and the military is required to turn to the private sector for government-impelled cargo, but today some members of Congress are intent on reducing cargo preference programs that ensure this capacity is preserved. This spring, the Maritime Administration testified to Congress that the U.S. has a shortage of about 1,800 mariners, which means sealift could not be sustained during a war for longer than six months. Without programs like Food for Peace, this problem could get even worse.
The Navy League is urging Congress to maintain at least FY2018 funding levels for both Food for Peace and ensure at least 50% of U.S. sourced products are transported on U.S.-flag ships.
The 50% requirement for U.S.-flag ships will strengthen the U.S.-flag merchant marine fleet. Cargo preference programs like Food for Peace are crucial to ensuring the health of the ocean-going U.S.-flag fleet and ensures a well-trained pool of American mariners. The U.S.-flag Merchant Marine is a valuable national asset; the Department of Defense has repeatedly stated that this public-private partnership would cost billions of dollars to replicate.
Why you should take action
The Administration eliminated funding for Food for Peace in the President's 2019 Budget request, and a coalition of groups is working to eliminate any cargo preference requirements from the program even if it is funded. We need your voice to support Food for Peace, the U.S.-flag fleet, and American mariner jobs.