Murkowski looks to boost Alaska seafood with Improving ARCTIC Act
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says her latest bill would strengthen Alaska’s seafood industry, creating a new label for wild-caught seafood, establishing a new grant program for domestic seafood processors, and adding new label requirements for genetically engineered or lab-grown seafood.
The Improving ARCTIC Act is a collection of amendments to the Farm Bill meant to help Alaskan residents and industries. Congress updates and revises the Farm Bill every five years, and the last Farm Bill passed in 2018, meaning that lawmakers are due to revise the law this year.
“Over the past year, in preparation for the 2023 Farm Bill, my team and I have been working diligently with Alaskan stakeholders to learn more about their concerns, priorities, and goals. Following our hard work and Alaskans’ generous input, I’m proud to unveil the Improving ARCTIC Act, a measure that is truly a win for Alaska in this year’s Farm Bill,” Murkowski said.
In addition to addressing SNAP benefits and food security programs, Murkowski’s Improving ARCTIC Act includes several provisions designed to strengthen Alaska’s seafood industry. The bill text has not been released yet, but according to a summary from Murkowski’s office, the legislation would:
- Expand the eligibility of commercial fishermen to access U.S. Department of Agriculture grants and assistance;
- Establish a pilot program that would provide grants for domestic seafood processing in coastal communities;
- Prohibit any federal agency from regulating offshore finfish farming without Congressional authorization;
- Include “cooked crab” as a covered commodity under the Country-of-Origin Labeling Program;
- Create grants to support reuse, recycle, and sustainability projects related to seafood byproducts; and
- Require labels for genetically engineered or lab-grown seafood products.
Alaska seafood groups, including the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the Southeast Conference, and the United Fishermen of Alaska, have come out in favor of the bill.
“The seafood provisions in the ‘Improving ARCTIC Act’ will help consumers differentiate between wild harvested seafood and genetically engineered or lab-grown seafood; the provisions also prevent the federal government from imposing off-shore aquaculture on States such as Alaska that have wisely protected wild fish stocks from the impacts of this damaging industry,” Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Linda Behnken said in a statement.
The legislation also includes language from bills Murkowski proposed earlier this year. The Improving ARCTIC Act duplicates the Fishing Industry Credit Enhancement Act, which was introduced independently by Murkowski and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) last month and would make commercial fishing-related businesses eligible for Farm Credit System loans. The bill also includes provisions from the Wild USA Seafood Act of 2023, which would establish a voluntary “Wild USA Seafood” label that could be used on all seafood caught in U.S. waters to help promote domestic products.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Peter Leahy