Trump Said to Put Off Order Requiring Food Aid on Domestic Ships

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump has put off for now signing an executive order that would require U.S. food aid to be sent abroad on U.S. ships, according to an administration official.

There are no plans to issue the order within the next week, according to the official. Earlier Friday, another administration official said Trump was poised to sign the order as soon as next week. Both officials discussed the matter on condition of anonymity because the order hasn’t been issued.

The directive under consideration by Trump had been expected by relief workers to add extra cost to a program he wanted to cut for being inefficient.

The proposal to up the requirement for shipping on domestic carriers -- a subsidy that maintains shipping jobs in the U.S. as its merchant marine has declined globally -- would double the current 50 percent stipulation now applied to roughly $1.8 billion of American farm surplus sent abroad to aid victims of famine and conflict. Reducing competition could potentially increase the cost and complicate logistics, meaning less food in a less timely fashion.

“It’s a terrible idea,” said Jeremy Konondyk, a senior fellow for the Center for Policy Development in Washington and the director of the office of the U.S. Agency for International Development that led responses to international humanitarian disasters under President Barack Obama. “It leads to less assistance at a higher cost.”

U.S. food assistance, along with foreign aid, has been in the crosshair of the administration as it seeks to shift spending toward domestic priorities. The White House budget proposed in May eliminated international nutrition programs, saying their administration was inefficient, a move ignored in both houses of Congress by appropriators drafting spending resolutions.