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For more than one hundred years, it has been the policy of the United States Government that a portion of the goods bought and paid for with taxpayer dollars should be transported on American ships with American crews.  In that time, our cargo preference laws have helped keep the U.S.-flag merchant marine sailing, providing good-paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of mariners.

But in this era of tough economic times and ballooning budgets, opponents of cargo preference have stepped up their attacks on these fundamental maritime laws.

From providing food to hungry people around the world through the PL-480 Food for Peace program, to bringing the bullets, blankets and butter to our troops in harm’s way, to helping boost economic growth by carrying cargoes financed by the Export-Import Bank, America’s cargo preference laws are critical to our national and economic security.

America’s cargo preference laws have been praised by a bipartisan roster of American leaders, from the late President Eisenhower to President Obama.  Former Secretary of State Colin Powell recounted the important benefits that the law has generated in diplomacy when the Food for Peace program celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2004.  In 2008, then Senator Obama noted in a letter to a number of MTD affiliates, “Whether it is carrying needed goods to those overseas in distress or moving government-generated cargo, people around the world look to the U.S. Flag as a symbol of hope and determination.”

Yet today, these laws are under attack from a variety of opponents. But, as always, the Maritime Trades Department will fight to protect cargo preference, food aid, and our other key programs.

Securing adequate funding for the Food for Peace program is an MTD priority again this year. Given the turmoil that has engulfed the nation’s capital over any issue with a dollar sign attached, this will be a difficult fight.

MTD will also be fighting to secure a rechartering of the Export-Import Bank that leaves cargo preference intact.

These are all fights we’ve fought before – and fights we’ve won before.  And they are fights we will win again. The MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils pledge to do everything we can to preserve the integrity of these vitally important laws and to see our critical programs are adequately funded.