(The following is excerpted from a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.)
We write to urge the inclusion of support for the American seafood industry in the next coronavirus relief measure.
The seafood industry is critical to local and regional economies across the country. In 2016, the industry supported over 1 million good-paying jobs and generated more than $144 billion in sales, adding an estimated $61 billion to the nation’s GDP. In addition to the jobs, families, and communities it supports along every part of our country’s coastlines, the seafood industry fuels jobs throughout the country in processing and distribution.
A near total shutdown of restaurants and other outlets serving fresh seafood, the supply chain of fishermen and seafood processors has been decimated. Notably, more than 68 percent of the $102.2 billion that consumers paid for U.S. fishery products in 2017 was spent at food-service establishments. It has been reported that many of the nation’s fisheries have suffered sales declines as high as 95 percent. In addition, while many other agricultural sectors have seen a significant increase in grocery sales, seafood has been left out of that economic upside, as stores have cut back on offerings.
We strongly urge you to include in the next coronavirus stimulus package at least $2 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase domestically harvested and processed seafood products and distribute them to local, state, and national non-profits providing food to hungry Americans. Given that few seafood producers have historically participated in USDA commodity purchasing programs, we request that $1 billion be set aside to finance the purchase by USDA of seafood products that have not typically been purchased and that have experienced economic impacts as a result of coronavirus.
We also ask that you include an additional $1.5 billion for NOAA under the terms of section 12005 of the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) in order to provide direct relief to Tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants, impacted by coronavirus. We request that Congress appropriate and permit the secretary to make funding available as soon as practicable to all fishery participants, including commercial and recreational fishing and seafood businesses that have been impacted by declines in tourism and the closure of restaurants and other food services industries.
We urge you to facilitate the government purchase of seafood products that would both ensure stability in this key sector and provide healthy, domestically produced food for Americans. Thank you for your attention to this critical request, and for your continued support of America’s seafood industry.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)
Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.)
Rep. Steven M. Palazzo (R-Miss.)
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Conn.)