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Stressing the many economic and security benefits that the P.L. 480 “Food for Peace” Program generates, the head of the Navy League of the United States called upon the White House to preserve and fund it at full levels.

In a February letter to Acting Director Jeffrey Zients of the Office of Management and Budget, Navy League National Executive Director Dale Lumme stated that in addition to providing humanitarian aid to overseas nations, the “Food for Peace” Program generates U.S. taxes and jobs, not only in the agricultural community, but within the U.S. maritime industry. Noting that funding for the program has been slashed by 35 percent since FY 2008 and that the administration is considering submitting a budget that would eliminate it altogether, he warned against further cuts and urged the federal government to fully fund the nation’s largest cargo preference program, which has received strong bipartisan support since its 1954 inception.

“Cancelling this vital program will significantly undermine the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine and have devastating impacts to our national security,” Lumme wrote. “The United States Merchant Marine has been a necessary part of our national defense since the founding of our nation. The U.S. government relies on the U.S.-flag, U.S.-crewed ships in a public-private partnership with the Department of Defense to ensure the safe transportation of critical cargo anywhere in the word at any time – especially during times of war or national emergency.”

According to the Navy League, P.L. 480 also plays an important diplomatic role. As Lumme noted, “The Navy League believes strongly in American goodwill abroad, and this program is a necessary component of that: life-sustaining food in bags marked as gifts “From the American People” and bearing the U.S. flag are an important symbol of our nation’s concern and generosity to recipients, ensuring the sight of an American flag on a mast continues to be a promise of a better tomorrow.”

No less important, the program is an important source of good-paying middle-class jobs. Lumme added, “The transportation of Food for Peace cargo alone, not counting the farm and milling of the commodities, is an important source of jobs for American shippers, processors, port workers and merchant mariners, providing employment for over 33,000 Americans, $1.9 in economic output and $523 million in household earnings.”

Founded in 1902, the Navy League has nearly 50,000 members It serves, supports and stands with all the sea services—the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S.-flag merchant marine.