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Agricultural Cargoes

What is Agricultural Cargo?

The Cargo Preference Act of 1954 46 USC 55305 requires that at least 50 percent of the gross tonnage of all Government-generated cargo, including Agricultural commodities, be transported on privately owned, U.S.-flag commercial vessels to the extent such vessels are available at fair and reasonable rates. Agricultural cargoes -- everything from sustaining agricultural products to one-off emergency provisions -- are addressed in the Cargo Preference Act because a large volume of agricultural cargo is shipped as part of U.S. committments to support international food supply efforts where ever possible: 

“It’s the policy of the United States to use its abundant agricultural productivity to promote the foreign policy of the United States…” 7 USC 1691.

A wide range of government-funded programs support the U.S. agricultural mission and legislation behind it, designed in concert to facilitate:

  • government-to-government sales of U.S. agricultural commodities to developing countries to support agricultural, economic, or infrastructure development projects
  • donation of U.S. government commodities to meet emergency needs
  • donation or credit sale of U.S. commodities to developing countries and emerging democracies to support democracy and an expansion of private enterprise
  • donation of surplus commodities to overseas nations
  • donation of U.S. agricultural products, as well as financial and technical assistance, for school feeding and maternal and child nutrition projects in low-income, food-deficit countries


MARAD's Office of Cargo and Commercial Sealift initiates and recommends regulations and procedures to help shippers managing agricultural cargo stay compliant with related cargo preference laws. Program efforts concentrate on...

See our Cargo Preference Laws and Regulations page for guidance on agricultural cargo.


For questions about Agricultural Cargo, contact the Office of Cargo and Commercial Sealift

Updated: Friday, July 19, 2019