WASHINGTON — In a letter addressed to President Barack Obama, 65 commodity and food industry associations, farmer groups, transportation companies and unions and non-governmental organizations involved in humanitarian initiatives in poor countries stated strongly their support for sustained funding for the nation’s primary foreign food aid programs, Food for Peace and Food for Progress. The groups wrote out of concern the president’s budget when presented may call for eliminating these programs or drastically reducing their funding in favor of giving cash to foreign governments to purchase commodities from wherever they will.

The groups asserted current food aid programs have enjoyed strong bipartisan support for nearly 60 years, tracing back to the establishment of the foundational Food for Peace Program in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The groups pointed out both Food for Peace and Food for Progress “are well-honed and dependable systems for identifying the appropriate commodities for targeted populations and for procuring and shipping these commodities.” They noted the programs included facilities for prepositioning food near where emergencies are most likely to occur and had the ability to divert cargoes on the high seas when an urgent need arises.

“The transparency, accountability and reliability of this system are the result of decades of cooperation through a uniquely sustainable public-private partnership between thousands of committed Americans at faith-based and other non-governmental organizations, and in agriculture, labor, industry and government,” the groups said.

“Growing, manufacturing, bagging, shipping, and transporting nutritious U.S. food create jobs and economic activity here at home, provides support for our U.S. Merchant Marine essential to our national defense sealift capability, and sustains a robust domestic constituency for these programs not easily replicated in alternative foreign aid programs,” the letter exclaimed.

The groups asserted Food for Peace has a strong track record of reducing child malnutrition while increasing incomes and food supplies for very poor and vulnerable populations. Food for Progress expands business and income opportunities along the agriculture value chain and improves the quality and quantity of food supplies, the groups added.

“In addition to fighting global hunger and facilitating developmental programs to end the cycle of hunger, these programs are also some of our most effective, low-cost national security tools,” the groups added. “Bags of U.S.-grown food bearing the U.S. flag and stamped as ‘From the American People’ serve as ambassadors of our nation’s goodwill, which can help to address the root causes of instability. In a time of growing global food insecurity and extremism, these programs need to be expanded, not eliminated.”