The measure already has strong, bipartisan support from Iowa and national ag groups as well as from key members of the Senate.
WASHINGTON – Some of the world’s top humanitarian organizations—including Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, and World Food Program USA—are now backing U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) bipartisan push to waive shipping red tape and to open up American food aid in the wake of Russia’s lawless invasion of Ukraine.
In addition, a bipartisan group of U.S. House Representatives, led by U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), introduced companion legislation to Ernst’s, showing growing bipartisan and bicameral support for the initiative. The effort has also gained support from other U.S. senators, including Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and James Lankford (R-Okla.).
In a joint statement published this week, more than a dozen of the world’s top non-governmental organizations (NGOs) expressed support for Ernst’s measure. They stated: “Our community strongly supports efforts in Congress to address rising shipping costs as the impacts of the conflict in Ukraine continue to have ripple effects on the entire global food system. […] In these unprecedented conditions, we request that Congress urgently consider and pass [Ernst’s measure] to help ease the increasing burden of rising shipping costs on lifesaving, hunger-reducing programs by temporarily waiving the U.S. cargo preference mandate on food aid.”
This statement of support and the House introduction of companion legislation both come after Ernst’s measure, which she introduced with Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), gained the support of some of the top Iowa and national agriculture organizations, including the Iowa Farm Bureau, the Iowa Soybean Association, and the National Corn Growers Association. Some of the top members of the U.S. Senate support the effort as well, including Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Current law mandates 50 percent of U.S. food aid exports to be shipped on U.S. flagged vessels, a rule that increased shipping costs by an average of $52.6 million per fiscal year between 2013 and 2018 (on average). 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.
There are only four dry-bulk shipping vessels—the preferred means for moving food aid—worldwide that meet these shipping requirements while there are more than 12,000 vessels operating globally, according to USDA. The total U.S. flagged ships make up less than one percent of the global shipping fleet. Under current law, the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense, or Congress can waive the 50 percent requirement temporarily. Ernst’s bipartisan measure temporarily waives the requirement.