Fishing groups praise US Senate Farm Bill for including fisheries support

U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Arizona)
U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Arizona) introducing a Republican version of the U.S. Farm Bill to Congress
6 Min

U.S. fishing groups are praising federal lawmakers for incorporating significant fisheries support into a U.S. Farm Bill framework recently released by Senate Republicans.

The Farm Bill is the main piece of legislation governing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and fishing industry groups have been working to use the forthcoming renewal of the law as an opportunity to raise the profile of seafood within the department.

In 2023, some of the nation’s largest trade groups and seafood companies, including the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), the Seafood Harvesters of America (SHA), the Pacific Seafood Processors Association (PSPA), the At-Sea Processors Association (APA), Pacific Seafoods, and Trident Seafoods, circulated a letter calling on Congress to write seafood-supporting provisions into the legislation.

Now, Senate Republicans have released their version of the Farm Bill, which includes all three of the “priority requests” laid out by the seafood sector. Fishing groups were quick to praise the lawmakers on the framework.

“We are relieved and grateful that policymakers in Washington [D.C.] listened to feedback from our fishermen and community leaders,” Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Ben Martens said in a statement. “Protecting fishing communities is a bipartisan issue with national impact, and we hope that all our elected representatives will support the advancement of the seafood priorities highlighted in this framework.”

If adopted, the Senate Farm Bill would create a seafood liaison position under the USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist. The proposal would also support domestic seafood purchases for the National School Lunch Program, require Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for some processed crab and salmon products, and clarify that commercial fishermen, processors, and related businesses can access USDA grants and financial services, among other provisions.

“Available drafts and outlines include an interest in technical assistance to help improve cold-chain capacity and infrastructure, an increased awareness of the need for seafood in nutrition programs, a focus on aquaculture, and an effort to give seafood-related businesses access to much-needed credit in the form of the Food Supply Chain Grant and Guaranteed Loan Program,” National Fisheries Institute President and CEO Lisa Wallenda Picard said in a statement.

Some of those provisions have been included in other proposed bills, including the National Seafood Supply Act of 2023 legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and the Fishing Industry Credit Enhancement Act backed by U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

“Our community-based fishing fleets open doors to domestic food security, maritime careers, and thriving working waterfronts,” Fishing Communities Coalition Coordinator Noah Oppenheim said. “Fishing communities across the country are facing infrastructure losses, market threats, difficult capital environments, and many other hallmarks of undersupported industry in America. Like their terrestrial agriculture counterparts, seafood producers need support in order to thrive in today’s economy. The seafood provisions in this framework will go a long way toward helping our communities rebuild after catastrophic storm losses and ensuring a future for our working waterfronts.”

The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, United Fishermen of Alaska, Seafood Harvesters of America, Pacific Seafood, and the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance have all voiced support for the seafood-related parts of the framework.

The current Farm Bill was set to expire last September, but lawmakers issued a one-year extension of the 2018 legislation as they continued to work on a new version.

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