Massachusetts lawmakers press Perdue for more Section 32 Atlantic seafood purchases

Published on
October 23, 2020

A group of Massachusetts lawmakers in Washington wrote to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday, 21 October, to say they were thankful the Department of Agriculture has included Atlantic seafood in its purchases for public food programs. Now, they want to see more of it.

Since announcing a USD 20 million (EUR 16.9 million) Section 32 program solicitation for Atlantic pollock, haddock, and redfish in May, the USDA has made just once purchase agreement from that opportunity, and that came last month when the department purchased USD 4.4 million (EUR 3. million) worth of groundfish from New Bedford, Massachusetts-based Blue Harvest Fisheries.

“We hope that USDA’s first purchase through this solicitation will set the stage for further relationships between USDA and New England fisheries and seafood processors,” wrote U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Reps. Seth Moulton and William Keating. “We also encourage USDA to build on successful Section 32 contracts with the New England seafood industry by including it in other USDA procurement programs, such as the National School Lunch Program.”

The purchase was of a USD 470 million (EUR 397.6 million) acquisition plan the USDA announced to purchase surplus food for distribution to communities across the country. The effort was part of the federal government’s COVID-19 recovery plan to help food processors find a use for surplus food.

Like other industries, the COVID crisis significantly affected seafood processors, as Massachusetts groundfish suppliers saw their selling price drop by more than a third from last year. That led the lawmakers to push for Atlantic seafood’s inclusion in the purchase program for the first time in decades.

The remaining USD 15.6 million (EUR 13.2 million) is available to spend through the next fiscal year, the lawmakers wrote.

“We ask that USDA continue to dedicate those funds specifically to the purchase of Atlantic pollock, haddock, and redfish,” they said. “Section 32 purchasing is a new type of market opportunity for Atlantic fishermen and processors and surplus stocks will remain accessible throughout next year.”

Photo courtesy of Blue Harvest Fisheries

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