Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Act Now: Indecision Could Take Food Aid from 2 Million


It seems like it should be an easy decision, but Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), is undecided on whether to increase cargo preference under a provision, tucked into a Coast Guard bill, that would increase profits to foreign-owned shipping companies, or ensure 2 million hungry people receive food they need to survive.

Faithful advocates across the country need to speak up now.

Rockefeller is the chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which is writing its version of the Coast Guard Reauthorization bill.  The House has already passed its version of the legislation, but it included a harmful provision that would increase, from 50 to 75 percent, the amount of food aid shipped from the United States on U.S.-flagged ships. As a result, the cost of shipping food aid would increase by at least $75 million, and, as a result, 2 million fewer hungry people would be reached.

In an interview published in Politico today, Sen. Rockefeller said, “I’m just flat-out undecided.” His concerns, Politico reported, center on issues of military readiness and claims that the shipping industry needs the business. Experts in the field of agricultural cargo preference and food security have publically stated that there is no evidence to back up claims from the shipping industry that jobs or military readiness would be affected.

What evidence does show is that increasing cargo preference would limit already-scarce resources used to combat global food insecurity, especially during periods of crises. Harming a program that spreads American goodwill globally and saves millions of lives just to line the pockets of a few largely foreign-owned shipping companies makes no sense. Ryan Quinn, Bread for the World’s senior policy analyst, has said it is a boondoggle - that it is not only a waste of time and money, but goes against our nation's values.

“We have fought so hard for reforms that will bring lifesaving aid to millions, all the while saving taxpayer dollars,” Quinn said today. “Why should those dollars instead go to subsidize shipping companies? It makes no sense to me. And the argument that increasing cargo-preference restrictions would support ‘military readiness’ is not supported by the facts.”

In a letter to Congress last year, the U.S. Department of Defense asserted that the subsidized vessels in question are not useful to the military. In fact, many of these ships are old, inefficient, and ill-suited to carry thousands of tons of food aid thousands of miles around the world.

Quinn said that he was pleased with the bipartisan support he has seen around food aid. Just this week, Sens. Corker and Coons introduced the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421), which would provide up to 9 million more people with lifesaving aid at no additional cost by using taxpayer dollars more efficiently. The legislation would accomplish many of the requests included in the Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, Reforming U.S. Food Aid. Bread members visiting Washington, D.C., next week will be asking their senators to co-sponsor the bill as part of our annual Lobby Day.

“Increasing cargo preference could undo all that we have gained, and we must hold our leaders accountable,” said Quinn. 

Call your senator today at 800-826-3688 and tell him or her to oppose any increase in transportation costs for food aid.  Share the picture above on your Twitter or Facebook page, and visit bread.org/foodaid to sign our petition. Millions of lives should not be sacrificed to subsidize shipping companies!


Read more about S. 2421, the authorization bill to reform U.S. food aid released this week.


« Ask a Pastor: Why Should We Talk to Congress About U.S. Food Aid? The More Things Change ... »


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