USDA’s $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program does not specify whether seafood producers will be eligible for aid
Massachusetts (May 1, 2020) – Today, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Congressmen William Keating (MA-09) and Seth Moulton (MA-06) urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include East Coast seafood in purchasing agreements funded by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and the Section 32 program. On April 17, 2020, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the USDA would be making $19 billion of purchases through the CFAP, $873.3 million in agricultural purchases for food banks through the Section 32 program, and $1.5 billion for food bank administrative costs and purchases. USDA announced that the CFAP would support farmers and ranchers, and maintain the integrity of the food supply chain, but did not clarify whether seafood would be included in these purchases. USDA has included seafood in past procurement programs, and the lawmakers urge it to do so again in its response to the coronavirus crisis. In their letter, the Massachusetts lawmakers ask if there are additional USDA programs that will buy seafood products to provide assistance to producers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and whether the USDA is currently in conversations with seafood producers from the East Coast to purchase seafood. East Coast seafood producers have been devastated by the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
“When USDA begins its purchasing programs intended to assist those whom the pandemic has affected, USDA should include domestic seafood,” write the lawmakers in their letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “East Coast seafood producers can offer a wide variety of seafood that currently does not have a market, and which should be included in purchases made for this program.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
On April 3, the lawmakers wrote a letter urging the inclusion of domestic and East Coast seafood companies in the deployment of the $9.5 billion awarded by the Coronavirus Assistance, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for affected agricultural producers.