Hyde-Smith Leads Effort Asking USDA Sec. Perdue to Use Authority to Help Sustain Industry

U.S. Senators from leading catfish-producing states today asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to use his authority to provide CARES Act funding to help sustain the U.S. aquaculture industry, which has been hit by sharp market share declines and depressed prices.

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), with U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), sent a letter asking Perdue to use emergency supplemental funding and other authorities to assist farm-raised fish producers and processors.

“All aspects of the domestic aquaculture industry have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Senators wrote.  “Approximately 60 percent of catfish processor sales go to foodservice dining establishments.  Foodservice sales are down more than 65 percent across all seafood sectors because of the COVID-19 outbreak.  Fish inventories continue to build, which is creating significant cash-flow challenges for processors and depressed prices for producers.”

“As the Department moves forward in determining how it will allocate resources to support injured sectors of the agriculture industry, we respectfully request that you consider providing grants directly to states, as has been done in the past, to assist aquaculture producers,” the lawmakers said.

The Senators recommended that Perdue use the $9.5 billion in the CARES Act to support agriculture producers who supply local food systems, restaurants, and schools.  They also endorsed the use of a $14 billion boost for Commodity Credit Corporation borrowing authority to assist the U.S. aquaculture industry.

To help stabilizing market prices, the lawmakers also encouraged Perdue to exercise his authority to purchase excess inventory to encourage domestic consumption of farm-raised fish products.

The full letter Perdue is available below and here.

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We are writing to request that you assist farm-raised fish producers and processors with the funds provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stabilization (CARES) Act. 

All aspects of the domestic aquaculture industry have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Approximately 60 percent of catfish processor sales go to foodservice dining establishments.  Foodservice sales are down more than 65 percent across all seafood sectors because of the COVID-19 outbreak.  Fish inventories continue to build, which is creating significant cash-flow challenges for processors and depressed prices for producers. 

Catfish growers alone had sales of $379 million in 2019.  As a whole, the industry supports thousands of jobs across the southeastern United States and serves a critical function in supplying our local food systems, restaurants, and schools.  As you know, the CARES Act provides $9.5 billion to support agricultural producers harmed by the coronavirus, including livestock producers and those who supply local food systems, restaurants, and schools.  Aquaculture producers fit this description.  The Act also provides $14 billion in replenishment of the Commodity Credit Corporation’s (CCC) borrowing authority, which grants you broad authority to support American agriculture. 

As the Department moves forward in determining how it will allocate resources to support injured sectors of the agriculture industry, we respectfully request that you consider providing grants directly to states, as has been done in the past, to assist aquaculture producers.  We also request that you utilize your authority under Section 32 of the Act of August 24, 1935, to purchase excess inventory at processing establishments to encourage the domestic consumption of farm-raised fish products while stabilizing market prices.  This much-needed support is essential to the overall viability of the industry.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.  Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

Press Release

4/10/2019