Representatives Steven Palazzo (MS-4), Jared Huffman (CA-2), Garret Graves (LA-6), and Kurt Schrader (OR-5) co-led 45 of their House colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy urging the inclusion of funding to support the American seafood industry in the next coronavirus relief package.

The group of lawmakers wrote, “The seafood industry is currently facing an unprecedented collapse in demand because of the novel coronavirus. 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.”

The letter asks for $2 billion in funding be allocated for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase domestically harvested seafood and distribute them to local, state, and national non-profits providing food to hungry Americans. The letter also requests $1.5 billion be included for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide direct relief to Tribal, subsistence, commercial, and charter fishery participants impacted by coronavirus.

Full text of the letter can be read below.

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Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy,

We write to urge the inclusion of support for the American seafood industry in the next coronavirus relief measure. Our seafood processors and fishermen have been dealt a significant economic blow as a result of coronavirus and are in desperate need of federal assistance.

The seafood industry is critical to local and regional economies across the country. In 2016, the industry supported over one 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.

Due to efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has led to 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% 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 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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.

The seafood industry is currently facing an unprecedented collapse in demand because of the novel coronavirus. 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.

Sincerely,

Jared Huffman
Garret Graves
Steven Palazzo
Kurt Schrader

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Release from Congressman Steven Palazzo.