On Tuesday, June 11, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Ranking Member John Boozman released a Farm Bill framework that includes several provisions advancing significant and meaningful benefits to fishing and seafood businesses and communities.

The first Farm Bill was the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, part of the New Deal, in response to the drop in U.S. crop prices after the First World War. In 2013, the Farm Bill emerged from the U.S. Senate with two amendments to help the fishing industry, introduced by Mass. Senator Cowan. One amendment called for catch insurance similar to crop insurance and low-interest loans available for the fishing industry to cope with the economic disaster, which was declared in 2012 by Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. 

Similarly, in June 2023, Senator Murkowski and Senator King introduced bipartisan legislation called the Fishing Industry Credit Enhancement Act to expand financial support to America’s fishing communities. This bill was another step forward in providing fishing businesses with access to the same loans as agriculture businesses through the Farm Credit System.  

The Farm Bill framework will further emphasize the need to include fishing and seafood businesses in the same bills as agricultural businesses to support all U.S. businesses that put local food on our tables. This bill will now further support the fishing industry due to many U.S. Senators' bipartisan bills and Senator Boozman’s inclusion in the Farm Bill.

“Our community-based fishing fleets open doors to domestic food security, maritime careers, and thriving working waterfronts,” said Noah Oppenheim, Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) coordinator. “Fishing communities across the country are facing infrastructure losses, market threats, difficult capital environments, and many other hallmarks of under-supported industry in America. Like their terrestrial agriculture counterparts, seafood producers need support in order to thrive in today’s economy. The seafood provisions in this framework will go a long way toward helping our communities rebuild after catastrophic storm losses and ensuring a future for our working waterfronts. We deeply appreciate Ranking Member Boozman’s support for fishing communities in his framework and his team's hard work at the Agriculture Committee.”

The framework includes the following provisions to assist fishermen, seafood processors, and coastal communities:

  • Establish a seafood liaison in the USDA Office of Chief Economist;
  • Require Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for certain processed crab and salmon products;
  • Direct the USDA to conduct a study on the feasibility of expanding seafood processing in coastal communities;
  • Incorporate Buy American language into nutrition program purchases — 5 percent cap on non domestic purchases for each of the food categories, including Fish and Other Seafood; and
  • Open Agricultural Credit programs (low-cost loans) to fishing industry businesses, providing access in parity with other food producers.

“We are relieved and grateful that policymakers in Washington listened to feedback from our fishermen and community leaders,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and FCC member, based in Brunswick, Maine. “The Senate now has a clear path to implementing some key programs for the American seafood system at the USDA, including Senator King’s and Senator Murkowski’s Fishing Industry Credit Enhancement Act, supported by several other coastal Senate champions. Protecting fishing communities is a bipartisan issue with national impact, and we hope that all our elected representatives will support the advancement of the seafood priorities highlighted in this framework.”

“Fishermen are food producers,” said Linda Behnken, commercial fisherman and executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, an FCC member, based in Sitka, Alaska. “We deeply appreciate Senator Boozman’s leadership, as well as the support of Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Senator King in championing the bipartisan language underpinning several of these framework priorities. We look forward to working with other Agriculture Committee members as this process continues to support the needs of our fishing communities, especially where they intersect with other domestic harvesters, food providers, and their communities.”

“Cape Cod fishermen have been working to establish a seafood liaison at USDA for a long time,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, an FCC member. “Our industry is complex, with diverse seasonality, species, and even more diverse participants. This position will greatly translate the complexity of community-based fisheries into action at the USDA, bringing even more delicious and nutritious US seafood to dinner plates across the nation. We thank Ranking Member Boozman and the Congressional Champions of this issue including many members of the Massachusetts Delegation for prioritizing this key initiative.”

Have you listened to this article via the audio player?

If so, send us your feedback around what we can do to improve this feature or further develop it. If not, check it out and let us know what you think via email or on social media.

Join the Conversation

Primary Featured