Provision Passed by the House to Support Maritime Industry
Would Take $75 Million from Hungry
WASHINGTON, DC, April 29, 2014 — Catholic Relief Services has joined 15 other humanitarian and advocacy organizations in opposing a provision passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would result in two million vulnerable people losing access to life-saving food aid from the United States.
The provision — Section 318 of H.R. 4005, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 — would increase from 50 percent to 75 percent the portion of U.S.-sourced food aid commodities that must be transported on privately owned, U.S.-flagged commercial vessels.
The Administration estimates that if Section 318 becomes law, food aid programs would have to spend $75 million more each year on overseas cargo transportation, instead of food that would feed two million. The Senate is working on its version of the Coast Guard bill and has not yet decided whether to include an increase in the cargo preference percentage.
“While we are supportive of a strong and active United States Merchant Marine fleet, the cost should not be borne by the hungry and malnourished families that are served – and whose lives are saved – by U.S. food aid programs,” said Bill O’Keefe, CRS’ Vice President for Advocacy.
The joint statement points out this proposal follows the recent elimination of long standing reimbursements to food aid programs intended to offset the high cost of using U.S. flagged vessels.
“Congress long used reimbursements to help balance food aid aims and U.S. maritime interests; the ending of reimbursements already created an imbalance and Section 318 only exacerbates the problem,” said O’Keefe who noted that this proposed change comes just after reforms in the recently passed Farm Bill and the 2014 appropriations bill allowed an additional 800,000 people to be served.
“The real irony is that Congress has done a lot to make food aid programs more efficient and this proposed change would more than reverse recent gains,” O’Keefe added. “Now is the time to build on those positive steps, not to tear them down. We hope that the Senate will defeat this measure.”
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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief and @CRSnews, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube.