The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO is launching a grassroots effort to ensure full funding to the nation’s important “Food for Peace” (also known as PL-480) Program.
“Our affiliates and their members will be reaching out to their elected officials in Washington, letting them know that the financial cuts being discussed will hurt mariners, dock workers, transportation workers and farmers,” stated MTD President Michael Sacco. “The Food for Peace Program has been a vital part of America’s international compassion, bringing needed American-produced food and other aid in boxes and bags decorated with the American flag aboard American ships with American crews.
“There are some who believe mistakenly that it would be better to just hand the money used for the program to foreign governments or other interests. As we have seen over the years, money has a way of disappearing while people continue to go hungry. For 60 years, there has been no doubt the food sent overseas by American farmers aboard American vessels has reached their destinations to help those in need.”
The Food for Peace initiative became law in 1954. Over the years, it received solid bipartisan support.
Last year, the requirement that U.S.-flag vessels carry 75 percent of the program’s cargo was reduced to 50 percent when Congress passed the Surface Transportation Act. Talks surrounding a Fiscal Year 2014 budget have included additional reductions in the use of U.S.-flag ships. The White House budget proposal seeks to transfer some money used for shipping Food for Peace cargo to retrain American mariners while providing dollars directly to non-governmental agencies. If this were to be the case, more than half the U.S-flag ships used to move Food for Peace cargo – and their American crews – would be left at the docks.
This month, MTD Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan spoke to the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California port councils urging their support. He called on the affiliates to call, visit and write their U.S. Senators and Representatives seeking support for the Food for Peace program.
Duncan reminded those attending the two meetings that U.S.-flag shipping has been under fire with repeated attacks to roll back the Jones Act as well as the recent efforts to cut Food for Peace.
“We have faced these attacks before and beaten them back,” he noted. “We intend to succeed again with your help.”