Skip to content

Ernst, Coons Push Effort to Cut Red Tape, Lower Costs, Expedite Food Aid

The bipartisan, temporary, and narrowly-crafted measure will allow the United States to flow aid faster, and save taxpayer dollars and countless lives around the world.

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) are pushing an effort to reduce bureaucratic red tape, lower costs, and expedite food aid to Ukraine and other countries affected by Putin’s unjust invasion. Ernst and Coons’ bipartisan resolution would temporarily waive a requirement under current law mandating 50 percent of U.S. food aid exports to be shipped on U.S. flagged vessels.

“Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe, and Putin’s unjust, unprovoked invasion is causing a humanitarian crisis and threatening global food security. We need to take immediate action to expedite delivery of food aid to our friends and partners around the world and this temporary, narrowly-crafted measure will allow the United States to flow aid faster, and save taxpayer dollars and countless lives around the world,” said Senator Ernst.

“In what was once considered the breadbasket of Europe, Ukrainian farmers can’t plant or harvest their crops without risking death at the hands of Russian shelling. The consequences of Russia’s brutal invasion on food supplies are being felt across the world today, and when tens of millions of lives depend right now on the swift, effective delivery of American food aid, we can’t allow our emergency response to be held up by red tape that forces us to spend more money on shipping our food aid than on the food itself,” said Senator Coons.


Cargo preference requirements force 50 percent of Title II food aid shipments (by tonnage) to be carried on US flagged vessels, staffed by crews in which at least 75 percent of the sailors are U.S. citizens. According to a report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), this law increased shipping costs by an average of $52.6 million per fiscal year between 2013 and 2018 (on average). The United States Agency for International Development in a fact sheet titled “Food Aid Reform: Behind the Numbers” stated that eliminating the mandatory cargo preference reimbursements will reduce the deficit by an estimated $50 million per year. Just last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that the cost of shipping the food commodities overseas is often higher than the actual costs for the grain and other products themselves right now.

Under current law, the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense, or Congress can waive the 50 percent requirement temporarily. This bipartisan measure would declare a state of emergency and waive the cargo preference requirements on food aid exports to Ukraine and other countries directly impacted by the war until February 2025.

Ernst, along with fellow member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), hosted members of Ukrainian civil society for a discussion about Russia’s war in Ukraine and what it means for global food security and agriculture. Last week, Ernst penned an op-ed in entitled, “Ukraine must win the war Putin is waging and Biden needs to step up.”