USDA agrees to purchase East Coast seafood for food bank donations

Fishing boats in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will buy Atlantic haddock, pollock, and perch from domestic fisheries on the U.S. East Coast to supply food banks.

The purchase comes as part of a USD 1 billion (EUR 937 million) plan to supply emergency food providers through the U.S. Commodity Credit Corporation, according to a statement from U.S. Senator Edward Markey, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Representative Seth Moulton, and U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, all Democrats representing the U.S. state of Massachusetts.

“The Massachusetts seafood industry is a vital contributor to our local economy,” Warren said. “This industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and I’m glad to have worked with the Massachusetts delegation to secure funding to help fishermen while also providing nutritious food to struggling families across the country.”

The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) is a government-owned and operated entity that was created in 1933 to stabilize, support, and protect farm income and prices. CCC was also charged with maintaining balanced and adequate supplies of agricultural commodities and to aid in the orderly distribution of those commodities. The program was expanded in 2018 to help provide financial assistance to the U.S. agriculture sector and other related industries in response to new tariffs they faced from China, the European Union, and other countries.

The move came in response to advocacy from Massachusetts’ congressional delegation, which penned a letter to the USDA in December 2022 urging it to include more East Coast seafood in its purchasing programs. In 2020, the USDA announced it would spend USD 20 million (EUR 16.9 million) from its Section 32 program solicitation for Atlantic pollock, haddock, and redfish sourced from the U.S. East Coast. Out of that spend, New Bedford, Massachusetts-based Blue Harvest Fisheries picked up a contract for USD 4.4 million (EUR 3.8 million) worth of groundfish in September 2020 and Braintree, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based Channel Fish Processing and Blue Harvest Foods won a USD 24.6 million (EUR 22 million) Section 32 contract in March 2022 to provide 100,800 cases of frozen Atlantic pollock fillets, ocean perch fillets, and haddock fillets to the U.S. government.

The purchase was part of a USD 470 million (EUR 397.6 million) acquisition plan the USDA announced to buy food for distribution to communities across the country during the Covid-19 crisis, and was also part of a plan to help food processors find a use for surplus food.

“My colleagues and I have advocated for the inclusion of East Coast seafood in purchases by the USDA for many years, and this announcement is a win for Massachusetts fisheries and for hungry families across the country,” Keating said. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to find innovative ways to support this historic Massachusetts industry while combatting food insecurity.”

Massachusetts’ congressional delegation had asked the USDA to ... 

Photo courtesy of Raymond B. Summers/Shutterstock

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