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Posted: December 7, 2011

MSP, Food for Peace funded for fiscal year 2012

President Barack Obama in November signed into law legislation funding the Maritime Security Program and shipments of U.S. food-aid under Food for Peace Title II for fiscal year 2012.

"Full funding of the MSP in fiscal 2012 and the addition of some $400 million in PL-480 funding were direct results of our union's work on Capitol Hill," said AMO National President Tom Bethel. "The AMO Voluntary Political Action Fund helps make this work possible. I urge all deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters AMO members to participate in the fund at the greatest possible level in the New Year - contributions to the fund represent sound investments in long-term job and benefit security."

The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (H.R. 2112) makes appropriations for five cabinet departments, including Transportation and Agriculture. The law provides full funding for the MSP and substantial funding for U.S. food-aid shipments under Food for Peace Title II.

The full amount requested for fiscal 2012 by the Obama Administration for the Maritime Security Program - $174 million - was approved. A remaining $12 million will be added by the Maritime Administration from current MSP funds to bring the fiscal 2012 MSP budget to its congressionally-authorized level of $186 million.

Designed to serve U.S. national security and defense transportation needs, the MSP maintains military access to commercial tonnage and intermodal infrastructure, and allows the military to move equipment and goods quickly and efficiently at minimal cost. All 60 MSP vessels are U.S.-flagged and manned by U.S. citizens. AMO represents all licensed officers working aboard 15 ships in the MSP fleet.

The President also approved funding for the PL-480 "Food for Peace" program Title II, at a level of approximately $1.47 billion, the same amount allocated in fiscal 2011. Although the amount is about $200 million less than that originally requested by the administration, it is approximately $400 million higher than the funding level originally sought by Congress for fiscal 2012.

Under a 1985 amendment to the Cargo Preference Act of 1954, up to 75 percent of PL-480 food-aid exports must be delivered in privately owned and operated U.S.-flagged merchant ships. American merchant mariners who work in PL-480 trades represent a significant manpower base for manning Military Sealift Command vessels during times of war and crisis to provide vital sealift support for the U.S. armed forces. U.S-flagged containerships engaged in PL-480 trades are also important elements of sealift policy.

The program came under attack earlier this year when a farm budget bill amendment would have eliminated funding for PL-480 in fiscal 2012. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 338-83 - one in a series of votes on amendments targeting PL-480. All eight measures seeking to cut funding for PL-480 cargoes were defeated by similar margins, demonstrating Congressional acknowledgement of the value of PL-480, not only to nations in need, but to the creation and maintenance of American jobs in seagoing and shoreside sectors.