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Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. (Associated Press)

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. (Associated Press)

Port lobbying Congress to keep Food for Peace program going

Last Modified: Wednesday, May 08, 2013 10:22 PM

By Lance Traweek / American Press

Port officials are lobbying Congress to continue supporting the Food for Peace program to keep thousands of American maritime jobs intact.

President Barack Obama recently proposed sending money overseas rather than shipping American-grown grain products to impoverished populations worldwide. The proposal recommends a “money only” foreign aid program.

Bill Rase, executive director of the Port of Lake Charles, met with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to talk about the consequences of such changes.

In 2012, U.S. aid represented 41 percent of the port’s bagged cargo business, Rase said Wednesday.

It’s a labor-intensive business, so it’s where the majority of the 200 International Longshoreman Association workforce participates, he said. Rase said the Port of Lake Charles sends about one ship a month in foreign aid. And in 2011, there was 341,000 tons shipped out of the Gulf for the program. Of that number, the Port of Lake Charles represented 120,000 tons.

“If they just send a check overseas all of those people who are working in that particular industry, estimated to be about 30,000 people in the state, are out of jobs,” Rase said. “If we’re just sending the money overseas, we’re not even assured that the people are being fed.”

Rase said Tuesday’s meeting went well, and that Landrieu was “very receptive to the conversation.”

“The Food for Peace program has brought tremendous benefits to Louisiana’s maritime industry and agricultural community,” said Matthew Lehner, Landrieu’s communications director. “Sen. Landrieu will continue to support the program as we look for ways to encourage agricultural development abroad.”

Also present at the meeting were representatives from the Port of New Orleans, the maritime shipping industry, officials with various Louisiana ports, the Louisiana Rice Federation, the International Longshoremen Association and the agriculture industry.

“We’re going to fight this to the end,” Rase said.

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