COVID-19 relief for U.S. aquaculture remains unclear
By Nestor Arellano
In the midst of the continuing COVID-19 crisis, the United States aquaculture industry remains uncertain if it will receive much needed relief from the federal government.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a $19-billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.
“The program will provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need,” according to the USDA.
“During this time of national crisis, President Trump and USDA are standing with our farmers, ranchers, and all citizens to make sure they are taken care of,” Perdue said. “The American food supply chain had to adapt, and it remains safe, secure, and strong, and we all know that starts with America’s farmers and ranchers.
However, it remains uncertain if the relief program will include the aquaculture sector.
According to SeafoofSource, an email from a USDA spokesperson indicated that the program was crafted in a very short period.
“This is intended to be an inclusive program and more information will be provided in the rulemaking. As we implement and get applications, we will continue to evaluate impacts and work with Congress as more resources are needed,” according to the spokesperson.
US lawmakers, in March, passed a $2.2-trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act. The act provided the funding for the USDA initiative.
US congressmen from seafood producing states continue to urge Purdue to include the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in relief programs that the USDA will create with the funding.
Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, along with representatives William Keating and Seth Moulton, on April 2nd sent a letter to Perdue.
They asked Perdue to use part of the $ 9.5 billion CARES act money earmarked for agricultural producers to help seafood producers and other companies.