US lawmakers want to make sure aquaculture gets equal treatment by USDA

An oyster farmer adjusting a bag of oysters.

A group of U.S. lawmakers are continuing their campaign to ensure the aquaculture industry is getting adequate support and fair treatment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Last week, U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) introduced the Supporting Equity for Aquaculture and Seafood (SEAS) Act, which would require the USDA to ensure it provides “fair funding levels” to aquaculture producers in its program. The USDA, Pallone claimed, devotes a disproportionate percentage of its program funding to animal agriculture.

Under the SEAS Act, the USDA would be required to give the same consideration to aquaculture producers as animal agriculture producers in awarding grants and produce two reports to Congress – one on seafood and aquaculture expenditures and grants, and one on the USDA’s role in supporting aquaculture and the seafood industry. It would also increase USDA funding for regional aquaculture centers to USD 30 million (EUR 27 million), and charge the department with developing a policy for aquaculture coverage under the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.

“Investing in aquaculture will help ensure all Americans have access to safe and affordable seafood nationwide. When we increase the consumption of American seafood, we can alleviate food insecurity, create new economic opportunities, and reduce our food system’s impact on the environment,” Pallone said. “The SEAS Act will help us meet the growing demand for American seafood and provides critical Congressional support for USDA’s aquaculture programs. My bill makes critical investments in our aquaculture and seafood industries now, so that our food system is resilient in the future.”

Aquaculture groups from Pallone’s state of New Jersey, including the Baymen’s Protective Association, the New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center, and the New Jersey Aquaculture Association, have come out in support of the bill.

“The SEAS Act is an important first step to ensure seafood and aquaculture are treated fairly at the Department of Agriculture,” Baymen’s Protective Association President Keith Craffey said in a statement. “His bill will help USDA meet the growing demand for seafood and help us continue to provide affordable local seafood to people throughout state.”

Cosponsors on the bill include U.S. representatives Kat Cammack (R-Florida), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware).

The bill follows another piece of legislation introduced this year to improve the standing of aquaculture within the USDA – the Sustaining Healthy Ecosystems, Livelihoods, and Local Seafood (SHELLS) Act.

The SHELLS Act would create an office of aquaculture within the USDA that would take charge of promoting shellfish, seaweed, and land-based aquaculture operations. Similar to the SEAS Act, the SHELLS Act would require the USDA to make sure aquaculture is represented in USDA programs and provide technical support to aquaculture producers.

If passed, the legislation would provide USD 25 million (EUR 23 million) in annual funding to the new office through 2028.

The SHELLS Act was introduced by Bonamici, and Pallone is a cosponsor.

Other aquaculture-focused bills being considered in Congress include the Coastal Seaweed Farm Act and the Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Bartosz Luczak


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