The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is purchasing up to USD 36 million (EUR 33 million) of wild shrimp from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic, U.S. Representative Garret Graves (R-Louisiana) announced in a press release.
The purchase is possible thanks to funds available under the USDA’s Section 32 Funds for Strengthening Markets, Income, and Supply, Graves’ office said.
Graves’ office said the purchase will “alleviate pressure felt by Louisiana’s shrimp industry caused by natural disasters, higher fuel prices, labor and supply chain issues, and the effects of foreign governments flooding the market with illegally caught, foreign, farmed seafood.”
“The seafood industry is one of Louisiana’s biggest economic drivers, but our shrimpers have been repeatedly hit by both man-made and natural disasters," Graves said. "We are pushing for legislation at every angle to bring them more relief, and this commitment from the USDA will make a meaningful impact on these businesses in our south Louisiana communities and stomachs across America."
Across the Gulf of Mexico, landings are up, according to the Southern Shrimp Alliance, which compiles monthly catch estimates referencing NOAA data. Landings in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and western Florida were all above historical averages in November. However, region-wide landings were down due to a lack of data from Louisiana, which historically has averaged over 884,000 pounds, or roughly 401 metric tons (MT), of shrimp landed for the month.
The announcement of USDA domestic shrimp purchases is the latest in a line of initiatives Graves has pushed to assist U.S. shrimpers.
In July 2023, Graves introduced the L.E.S.S. Act, which would increase funding for both shrimp import inspections and additional USDA Section 32 purchases. In November, Graves co-launched the bipartisan the competitiveness of U.S. seafood producers in domestic and international markets.
In 2021, Graves sponsored the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would have mandated automatic identification systems (AIS) be used to track fishing activities in both U.S. waters and the open seas. He also backed the America COMPETES Act, which contained numerous provisions aimed at improving the competitiveness of the U.S. seafood industry, though he did not vote on the bill when it passed in February 2022.
The USDA also announced on 21 December it has awarded more than USD 1.2 million (EUR 1.1 million) in pollock contracts.
Braintree, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based Channel Fish Processors will supply nearly USD 777,000 (EUR 700,500) worth of pollock fillets and fish sticks, while Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.-based Trident will supply around USD 440,000 (EUR 400,300) in fillets and fish sticks.
“The Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers and the entire Alaska pollock industry appreciates USDA’s continued support and dedication to placing wild Alaska pollock into Federal food and nutrition assistance programs,” GAPP CEO Craig Morris told SeafoodSource. "These purchases for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) will deliver sustainable, delicious, nutritious and domestically sourced Wild Alaska Pollock to our nation’s most in need that depend on food banks to put meals on their dinner table.”
Photo courtesy of Office of U.S. Representative Garret Graves