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Washington, D.C. – Bread for the World joined 25 other groups today in opposing increased cargo-preference restrictions in the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014. This provision, obscurely folded into the bill, would prevent millions around the world from receiving U.S. food aid and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in shipping costs.
“At a time when humanitarian crises are worsening in the Middle East, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, among other countries, it is astonishing that Congress would take money from a program that works well to support a few shipping companies,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “This legislation is not only immoral and unjust; it reverses important gains made recently to make food aid more efficient and reach more people.”
Current law dictates that one-half of U.S. food aid be shipped on American vessels. Congress reduced that amount from 75 percent in 2012 as a cost savings, and has including a number of provisions in the recently passed bipartisan farm bill and the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. food-aid programs.
Under this new provision, the percentage would revert to 75 percent, increasing food-aid transportation costs by $75 million a year, and will result in thousands of fewer tons of food aid shipped to respond to emergencies around the world. In turn, this would jeopardize the our ability to provide life-saving assistance to at least 2 million hungry people worldwide who face dire conditions due to conflict and natural disaster.
The Obama administration adamantly opposes this provision, which passed the House earlier this month, and is currently under consideration in the Senate.
“With 842 million people around the world going hungry every day, now is not the time to make such a devastating change to the U.S. food-aid program,” Beckmann added. “We strongly urge the Senate to reject any action that would increase transportation costs for food aid and prevent access to invaluable U.S. international food assistance.”
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