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Catholic Leaders Call for Preserving International Food Aid

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June 5, 2014

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are urging the Senate to defeat a proposal that would cost two million people around the world access to life-saving international food aid from the American people.

The stance came in a letter, signed by CRS President Carolyn Y. Woo and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the USCCB committee on Justice and Peace, sent to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), and the committee’s ranking member, Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota).

At issue is the Coast Guard Maritime and Transportation Act of 2014 that the House of Representatives passed with a provision requiring that 75 percent of food aid commodities be shipped on U.S. flagged cargo vessels, up from 50 percent in current law.  The Senate Commerce Committee is considering including a similar provision in its draft of the Coast Guard bill.

“We know that using U.S. flagged vessels to transport international food aid is much more expensive than using vessels flagged by other nations,” the letter states, noting that the administration estimates the increase to cost $75 million which would come entirely out of international food aid budgets and affect the two million worldwide.

Woo and Pates point to Pope Francis’ call to address “the scandal of hunger and the irresponsible use of the world’s resources.”

“International food aid programs are a key component to answering the Pope’s call to help the hungry and we implore you to make the best use of these resources by not increasing cargo preference requirements on them,” they state.

Woo and Pates note that the Church does not object to supporting the livelihoods of U.S. mariners, the motivation for the increase in cargo preference, but that such support “should not come at the expense of two million hungry people.

“If Congress seeks to support U.S. mariners, we ask that it be done in a way that does not negatively impact the people who depend on international food aid programs,” they say.

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency eases suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief and @CRSnews,  Google+Pinterest and YouTube.