Broad multi-industry coalition urges full congressional support for vital U.S. food-aid programs

The following letter signed by 123 labor, shipping, agricultural, port, fishing and humanitarian organizations, companies and interest groups – including American Maritime Officers and American Maritime Officers Service – was sent to the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD), and Subcommittee Ranking Member, Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA), and to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Subcommittee Ranking Member, Senator John Hoeven (R-ND). In addition to their immense humanitarian value, food-aid programs utilizing commodities grown in America and transported by U.S. merchant vessels are vital components of strategic sealift and U.S. national security. Under U.S. cargo preference requirements, at least 50 percent of U.S. government impelled food-aid shipments must be carried by U.S.-flagged vessels. While providing vital food aid to nations in need around the world, these cargoes help keep U.S.-flagged commercial vessels in service and U.S. merchant mariners, who are needed to crew surge and reserve military sealift vessels in times of war and crisis, employed and current on their skills and certifications.

Each year our nation’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, help reach millions of vulnerable people around the world. These programs have enjoyed significant bipartisan support for 70 years. We, the undersigned organizations, respectfully request Congress continue to fully support these programs and that the fiscal year 2025 agriculture appropriations funding for these critical accounts be increased to at least $2.4 billion.

Global food assistance is required as drought, continuing conflict, inflationary costs, and other crises persist around the world. Chronic and acute hunger have continued to rise and the U.N. World Food Programme warns that the number of people facing crisis levels of food insecurity has risen to 333 million as a result of lingering effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing conflict (including the war in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza) and climate-related extreme events. According to the Mid-Year Update of the Global Report on Food Crises, there are currently at least 238 million acutely food insecure people around the world, which is a 10% increase from the 2022 figure. With hunger on the rise, now is the time for America to continue its global leadership role by showing full support for U.S. international food assistance programs.

International food aid programs not only benefit the recipients, but also U.S. economic and national security interests. Food aid, in all its forms, is made available through these programs usually bearing the U.S. flag and/or marked “from the American people.” By furthering stability in fragile countries and sparking hope in countless people who are struggling to survive, U.S. strategic interests are protected and expanded. Ultimately, these kinds of foreign assistance programs help create a firm foundation for vulnerable communities to grow and prosper, which is why many former food aid recipient countries are now among the most important U.S. trading partners.

The use of American grown commodities as food aid has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign assistance programs for decades and U.S. food aid has continually evolved and adapted to meet changing needs. Using a combination of U.S. commodities, cash, vouchers, and locally purchased food, the U.S. has worked to expedite hunger relief, increase resilience, and save countless lives. Through a joint public-private partnership, American farmers, millers, mariners, port workers, private voluntary organizations (PVOs), and the U.S. government have developed the strongest frontline response to urgent global food insecurity. Food aid is a tangible source of hope to those in need, and American stakeholders take great pride in their support for the world’s most vulnerable people through these programs.

While our organizations at times have policy differences, we stand united in our belief that U.S. food aid programs are among the world’s most critical foreign assistance programs, save countless lives, bolster our nation’s global security, and help millions in need around the world. We ask that you continue the lifesaving and life improving work of food aid by increasing the agriculture appropriations funding in fiscal year 2025 to at least $2.4 billion to carry out the necessary and vital work accomplished in the P.L. 480 Title II Food for Peace, Food for Progress, and McGovern-Dole programs.