Merkley Leads Colleagues in Push to Support West Coast Fishermen and Seafood Processors
Collapse of industry would have detrimental impact on coastal communities, the families of millions of workers, American food supply chain
Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack to make sure urgently needed federal assistance is delivered to West Coast fishermen and seafood processors, who have been hit hard by the ongoing coronavirus crisis and largely left out of USDA commodity purchasing programs.
“As you know, the ongoing public health crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic disaster throughout the U.S. economy. These economic disruptions have been particularly acute for the seafood industry. Notably, more than 68% of the $102.2 billion that consumers paid for U.S. fishery products in 2017 was spent at food service establishments. The sudden and near-total loss of that market in March 2020 decimated virtually overnight the demand for U.S.-sourced seafood products, and the accompanying disruption in export markets and global supply chains has placed additional strain on domestic seafood infrastructure. Even as COVID-19 vaccines have started to be administered, significant economic impacts to the seafood sector continue.”
“During these unprecedented times, USDA’s procurement programs are critical to filling an incredibly important void – one that ensures that food production essential workers stay employed, supply chains keep operating, and America’s nutritional needs are met. We appreciate USDA’s efforts to date to expand its long-standing purchasing programs to include seafood products from various U.S. regions. However, thus far, few of the procurements have focused on the purchasing of seafood products from the West Coast.” “We thus request that USDA include as part of its commodity purchasing programs the purchase of Pacific Northwest and West Coast seafood products that are currently being produced in large volumes, easily accessible, and easily transportable for immediate distribution to food assistance programs.”