U.S. food-aid programs support people in need around the world, sustain U.S. strategic sealift capabilities and American jobs at home with direct delivery of food grown by U.S. farmers

The following letter dated August 5 was sent by several U.S. seagoing labor unions, U.S.-flag shipping companies and U.S. maritime organizations - including American Maritime Officers and American Maritime Officers Service - to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX).

We thank the Appropriations Committee for more than sixty years of bipartisan support for U.S. international food aid programs, including P.L. 480 Title II (Food for Peace), Food for Progress, and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education within the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bill.

Our nation and the rest of the world are facing exceptional and unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Food for Peace provides vital commodities to hungry people and poor countries, and is a visible sign of America's commitment to help the needy and stabilize risk-prone areas. The U.S.-flag maritime industry is proud to be part of this effort and to serve the national security needs of our nation. Our participation in P.L. 480 helps ensure that the U.S. has the privately owned and operated merchant ships and the skilled civilian American merchant mariners it needs to provide strategic sealift and other military support services in defense emergencies.

Commodities grown by American farmers and donated to those most in need through the P.L. 480 program provide an essential source of cargo necessary for the sustainment of the U.S.-flag merchant marine through our nation's cargo preference laws. These programs also provide support to American farmers facing significant disruptions during the pandemic. The undersigned organizations therefore respectfully request that $1 billion be included in any COVID supplemental funding, endorsing the request by the program's agricultural stakeholders in the attached letter. The undersigned also wish to express their gratitude for the increases to these programs included in H.R. 7610.

These programs are unique among foreign aid programs. The straightforward delivery of American food to the hungry fills a clear, immediate, and growing need overseas, while providing much-needed jobs and stimulus to our mariners, dockworkers, and farmers here at home in this time of economic uncertainty. We again thank you for over sixty years of support for the Food for Peace, Food for Progress, and McGovern-Dole programs.