Senators seek to preserve Sea Grant program from Trump budget cuts

A group of 25 U.S. Senators signed a letter last week to the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to save a federal program they claim has helped the domestic seafood trade and coastal communities.

The letter comes about a month after the Trump Administration released its proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year. In that spending plan, the administration called for the elimination of the National Sea Grant program from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) budget. The Sea Grant program was one of three NOAA initiatives targeted for elimination. 

The others are the Coastal Zone Management Grants and Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

“These eliminations would allow NOAA to better target remaining resources to core missions and services,” the administration stated in its budget proposal.

However, the Senators contend the program, which consists of a network of programs based at 33 universities, helps states better manage and utilize their coastal resources. 

For example, they said the federal government’s investment produces an economic impact of USD 579 million (EUR 518.8 million), nearly an eight-fold return that created or maintained 2,500 companies and 12,500 jobs. In 2017, the program helped nearly 18,000 fishermen learn sustainable fishing practices and 2,000 people receive training for handling seafood safely.

“As senators from some of the states with Sea Grant programs, we see firsthand how this federal investment is leveraged locally to bring immense returns to coastal communities, fishermen, universities and students,” the Senators said in their letter to U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), the Appropriations chairman and ranking member, respectively. “Any cuts to this funding would have a devastating impact and we strongly urge you to reject any proposals to reduce this program.” 

NOAA officials requested USD 93.5 million (EUR 83.8 million) for Sea Grant in 2020. The Senators have called on their Appropriations Committee to at least retain the program’s current funding level of USD 80 million (EUR 71.7 million) in any budget plan.

The letter was signed by Chris Murphy (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Angus King (I-Maine), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Gary Peters (D-Michigan), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Tina Smith (D-Minnesota), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), and Kamala Harris (D-California).


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