US congressmen propose expanding fishermen disaster relief to include tariffs

A pair of Democratic lawmakers announced on Wednesday, 26 June, that they have filed legislation to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act to enable the federal government to expand the scope of fishery disasters to include trade wars.

In a joint release, Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and Massachusetts U.S. Representative Seth Moulton said their bills would require the Department of Commerce to consider the economic impact the Trump Administration’s embargoes, and the retaliatory ones implemented by nations like China. 

According to NOAA Fisheries website, there have been 87 fishery disasters either approved or awaiting approval since 1985.

Moulton said the ongoing trade war is taking money away from hard working fishermen and making families’ grocery bills more expensive.

“The president’s lack of strategy and the uncertainty in our local economy is the perfect storm for local fishermen who are already doing more with less,” he said. “Until the president ends his misguided trade war, Congress should step up and provide some relief.”

A number of industries have been affected by the tariffs, Wyden said, including American fisheries.

“West Coast seafood is sought after internationally, and Oregonians earning a living in fisheries should be able to command top dollar on the global market, rather than be ensnared in the cross-fire of Trump’s escalating trade war,” Wyden said.

Moulton and Wyden’s efforts are the latest by federal lawmakers seeking to intervene in the trade war and support fishermen in their state. 

Earlier this month, Congressional delegations in Maine and Alaska penned separate letters to the administration asking it to provide the same relief for fishermen that has been created to help farmers hurt by tariffs.

Maine’s lobster industry has seen a dramatic decline in sales to China since the trade war began. Data from the state’s International Trade Center shows that lobster exports fell by 84 percent in that time.

In addition, last month Alaska’s lawmakers wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer asking him to remove Alaskan-caught, Chinese-processed food from the list of imported goods that receive a 25 percent tariff. 

Alaska lawmakers said that China is now looking to other sources, such as Russia, to meet the seafood needs that were once filled by Alaska’s fishermen.

U.S. Representatives Bill Keating (D-Mass.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) are co-sponsors of Moulton’s bill.


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