Provision among Miss.-related Items in Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today took action in an appropriations bill to reactivate federal monitoring of illegal activities involving shrimp exports to the United States.

Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has approved the FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act. The bill includes a Cochran-added provision that directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to lift a stay imposed by the Obama administration that excludes shrimp from the Seafood Import Monitoring Program. The program tracks unlawful activities related to shrimp and seafood imports.

“This provision sends a signal that the Senate is serious about protecting consumers, while leveling the playing field for our domestic shrimpers harmed by illegal and unfair foreign competition,” Cochran said. “Imported shrimp should be included in the enforcement of U.S. trade laws, particularly since violations of those laws are well-documented.”

In May, Cochran and other Senators, including Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), wrote to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross asking him to enforce regulations on shrimp in the same manner and timeframe as all other species under the Seafood Import Monitoring Program. The Senators said enforcement on imported shrimp would help counteract “the scale and scope of fraud and other illegal activities in the shrimp import supply chain.”

Commercial shrimp harvesting and processing production in Mississippi totaled more than 40 million pounds in 2015 and is valued at $111.5 million. The industry in Mississippi had an estimated $122.5 million direct and indirect economic impact on the state in 2015.

These provisions are among a number of items in the FY2018 CJS Appropriations Bill of interest to Mississippi. The bill funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), NOAA, and other agencies. The bill is now available for consideration by the Senate.

Among other items of interest to Mississippi in the bill are:

Red Snapper State-led Pilot Programs – Provides bill language and $5 million to give NOAA more flexibility to allow Gulf States to lead management of reef fish/red snapper in designated zones over artificial reefs in federal waters.

Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) – $36 million, an increase of $4.0 million above the FY2017 enacted level, for the NOAA Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes, which includes the Mississippi State University-led NGI housed at Stennis Space Center. NGI also includes the University of Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State University, Florida State University, Dauphin Island Sea Lab and NOAA.

National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) – $25 million for NERRS, $1.5 million above the FY2017 enacted level, a portion of which goes to the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve site in Pascagoula.

Marine Aquaculture –$11.5 million for aquaculture research, an increase of $2 million over FY2017 enacted. In addition, the bill provides $15 million for aquaculture activities under NOAA Fisheries Service (NMFS), which is $5.7 million above FY 2017, of which up to $5 million is directed for external grants to academic institutions. A portion of the funds will be used for pilot programs, including in the Gulf of Mexico, and internally at the Fisheries Science Center located in Pascagoula, MS.

NOAA National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) – Full funding is included for the NDBC, which is housed at the Stennis Space Center and is instrumental in helping meteorologists and researchers monitor and predict ocean and coastal weather events.

Electronic Monitoring and Reporting – Full funding for electronic monitoring and reporting technologies to support real-time fisheries data collection to cut costs and reduce the reporting burden for Gulf commercial and recreational fishermen. The bill also includes report language instructing NOAA to focus on the Gulf of Mexico.

National Center for Coastal Data Development – $5.5 million through NOAA for the National Center for Coastal Data Development (NCDDC) located at the Stennis Space Center, $933,000 above the FY2017 enacted level.

NOAA New Vessel Construction – $75 million for NOAA to move forward with construction of a new ocean-going vessel to begin replacing its aging fleet. NOAA’s oldest vessel operates in the Gulf of Mexico. The bill ensures the contract is open to competition, which would allow Gulf State shipyards to vie for the contract.

Space Launch System (SLS) – $2.15 billion for the NASA SLS program, the same as the FY2017 enacted level and $212 million above the budget request. This funding would allow all facets of the launch vehicle to maintain their schedules for its upcoming launch. Within this program, main engine testing for SLS will be conducted at the Stennis Space Center.

Exploration Upper Stage Testing – $20 million for NASA preliminary engineering and studies for test stand work associated with the upper stage engine being developed for crewed missions using SLS and Orion, the planned multi-purpose crew vehicle.

Rocket Propulsion Test Program – $47.6 million for NASA to ensure test infrastructure remains adequate to support SLS and other propulsion development programs.

Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Research – $5.0 million for NASA to conduct further research on the integration of UAS, or drones, into the national air space system over land and maritime environments. This work would be done in collaboration with the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence on UAS, which is led by Mississippi State University.

Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV) – $105 million to maintain the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels. By having three regional ships, the Gulf of Mexico and the East and West coasts will be able to have a dedicated RCRV to maximize research time in each of these regions.

Law Enforcement Grant Programs – The bill funds state and local law enforcement and crime prevention grant programs, including $405 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG); approximately $170 million for initiatives to address Rape Kit and other DNA evidence backlogs; $111 million for Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) programs, including $50 million in support for Drug Courts and Veterans Treatment Courts to further combat the opioid and heroin epidemic; $12 million for COPS Office Anti-Heroin Task Forces grants; and $7.0 million for COPS Office Anti-Methamphetamine Task Forces grants.