Labor unions are joining up with ocean carriers to fight proposals in Congress to reform rules for shipping U.S. food aid. Under cargo preference requirements, half of the food must be shipped on U.S.-flag carriers. Proposals introduced in the House and Senate would waive that requirement
“To be clear, this means that the federal government would cede U.S. food-aid and shipping interests to foreign flag ships by eliminating 100% of the U.S. ships that are available to transport food aid at fair and reasonable rates,” the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, says in a letter to members of Congress today. TTD represents 37 unions in the shipping industry. 
The letter says foreign flag carriers are “making record profits amidst global supply chain disruptions.” 
Why it’s an issue: Partly due to cargo preference, USDA is spending $388 million to ship and distribute $282 million worth of U.S. commodities in Yemen and five African countries.
Major humanitarian groups are supporting the waiver. A statement signed by 18 groups says waiving cargo preference would “help ease the increasing burden of rising shipping costs on lifesaving, hunger-reducing programs.” The groups behind the statement include CARE USA, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, World Food Program USA and World Vision. 
Farm group lauds Japan’s pledge to double ethanol use
Japan, an importer of U.S. ethanol, has promised to try to double its consumption of the corn-based fuel by 2030, and that’s getting a very warm reception from the U.S. Grains Council.
USGC Vice President Cary Sifferath says the group, together with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, has been working with the Japanese for months to demonstrate the benefits of ethanol.
Japan’s ethanol imports from the U.S. have been sliding in recent years. The country imported about $13.4 million of U.S. ethanol in 2018, which was a steep increase from just $1.1 million the year before, but then imports began declining, according to USDA data. The U.S. exported $3.9 million worth of ethanol in 2021.
Croatia offers Ukraine help in exporting grain
Croatia, with its long coast on the Adriatic Sea, is offering to allow Ukrainian exporters to use Croatian ports to ship its corn and wheat, according to consulting firm APK Inform.
Ukraine, with its Black Sea ports closed because of a Russian blockade, is currently being forced to ship its ag exports via rail, train and barge to ports in Romania, Poland and Lithuania. It’s estimated that roughly 20 million tons of grain for export are still stuck in storage because of Russia’s invasion.
“I’ve pointed out that Croatia’s ports on the Adriatic Sea are available and can be an effective and short route to transport grain to North Africa,” said Croatia’s state secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.
Customs intercepts pork and centipede shipments from Asia
Customs and Border Protection agents in Los Angeles this month took special notice of a package originating from China that was listed on a manifest as a “packaging box” and found inside 55 pounds of noodles, ruminant material and pork sausage.
Imports of pork from China or any other country that is battling outbreaks of African swine fever are strictly prohibited because they could “introduce the virus to the United States, crippling the domestic pork industry and U.S. pork exports valued at $6.5 billion annually,” according to CBP. 
Other recent seizures by U.S. customs include vials full of centipedes from Malaysia and dried sea cucumbers from Hong Kong.
USDA warns of possible phishing scheme targeting food purchase programs 
Fake emails look like they are solicitations for bids sent by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service have prompted a warning from AMS, which manages USDA’s food purchase programs.
One version of the phony email includes a message referring to a “bid for the supply of products and services for the Department of Agriculture Projects. While you consider a response, please take note that bids will be submitted electronically after you log in our procurement system.” The email continues, “Documents and Invitation can be accessed via the following link.”
But AMS says if you get an email like the one described above, don’t respond or click any of the links and immediately delete the original email.
For more information about this issue, contact the Commodity Procurement Program at (202)-720-4517.
He said it: “On Memorial Day, we remember the patriots who gave their lives in the service of America, in the service of freedom, and in the service of justice. We are free because they were brave, and we live by the light of the flame of liberty they kept burning” – President Joe Biden, on Memorial Day.

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