Workers at NOAA Fisheries and other federal agencies returned to their jobs Monday, 28 January, for the first time in more than a month, thanks to an agreement reached Friday between the U.S. Congress and the administration of President Donald Trump.
However, the resumption could be short-lived, as the deal to fund several government agencies lasts for only three weeks. That means another shutdown could happen next month if lawmakers and President Trump cannot finalize spending priorities for the 2019 fiscal year or approve another temporary bill.
While the talks hinge on whether the president gets funding for a border wall, numerous other policies and initiatives have been affected by the impasse. That includes some tied to the seafood industry.
For example, while the Food and Drug Administration maintained inspecting foreign seafood imports during the shutdown, funding for additional inspections remains in limbo.
Last July, the Senate passed a bill that would add more than USD 3 million (EUR 2.6 million) in funding for such inspections. However, the House failed to pass the bill, which would increase inspection funding by 26 percent, before Congress' term ended at the beginning of this month.
Since the new Congress convened, the House has passed a bill that includes the funding, first proposed by U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana). That bill has yet to pass in the Senate.
In a statement to SeafoodSource, Southern Shrimp Alliance Executive Director John Williams said Kennedy’s provision has been included in several bills that have passed either chamber.
“We are optimistic that ultimately his provision will be enacted as part of a long term FY19 funding bill,” he said.
On Friday morning, hours before the short-term agreement was reached, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum that included business leaders whose industries have been impacted by the five-week shutdown.
Jack Morriss, a fishing captain based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was among the business leaders invited who shared their stories. For Morriss, the shutdown caused a permit transfer issue that kept him from getting a new boat on the water to fish for scallops.
“There’s nobody at that desk,” he said. “We’re at a standstill. We have crew members that come down there every other day to say, ‘Jack, anything new?’”