May 07, 2020

Warren Joins Bipartisan Push to Support Fisherman and Seafood Processors

Collapse of industry would hurt over one million workers, American food supply chain

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC -- United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, in pushing to make sure urgently needed federal assistance is delivered to America's fishermen and seafood processors, who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

In their letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the senators request that upcoming coronavirus relief legislation include funding and provisions to support this critical industry.

"Our seafood processors and fishermen have been dealt a significant economic blow as a result of coronavirus and are in desperate need of federal assistance," the senators wrote. "It has been reported that many of the nation's fisheries have suffered sales declines as high as 95 percent.  In addition, while many other agricultural sectors have seen a significant increase in grocery sales, seafood has been left out of that economic upside, as stores have cut back on offerings."

"The seafood industry is currently facing an unprecedented collapse in demand because of the novel coronavirus. We urge you to facilitate the government purchase of seafood products that would both ensure stability in this key sector and provide healthy, domestically produced food for Americans," the senators continued.

Specifically, the senators recommend the allocation of $2 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase and redistribute seafood products to food banks--just as the agency is currently doing for other agricultural products. In addition, the letter requests that $1 billion be allocated to the Department of Commerce and NOAA to support direct payments to fisheries, seafood producers, and processors.

Not only do fisheries help Americans put food on the table for their families, they have long been the lifeblood of local and regional economies across the country. In 2016, the industry supported over one million good-paying jobs and generated more than $144 billion in sales, adding an estimated $61 billion to the nation's GDP. In addition to the jobs, families, and communities it supports along every part of our country's coastlines, the seafood industry fuels jobs throughout the country in processing, distribution, and food service industries.

Warren, Merkley, Murkowski, and Reed were joined in sending the bipartisan letter by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Angus King (I-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai'i).

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Warren has pressed the Trump Administration to respond effectively to deliver the robust set of resources needed to address this emergency, including relief for the Massachusetts fishing community.

  • Earlier this week, Senators Warren and Markey secured historic USDA procurement of East Coast seafood with coronavirus recovery funding. The Agricultural Marketing Service also announced that it will purchase $20 million in Atlantic Haddock, Pollock, and Redfish under the USDA Section 32 program. These announcements come after letters Senators Warren and Markey wrote in May and April to the USDA urging them to purchase New England seafood.
  • Last month, Senators Warren and Markey urged the Commerce Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide a swift, equitable, and transparent process in distributing the $300 million in fisheries disaster relief funds included in the CARES Act. 
  • She and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Representatives William Keating (MA-09) and Seth Moulton (MA-06) called for the Department of Commerce to immediately issue guidance for how the fishing and seafood industries can access the designated $300 million in relief funds included in the CARES Act. 
  • In March 2020, Senator Warren joined Senators Markey, Murkowski, and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in calling on Senate leadership to support the fishing industry in the Phase 3 coronavirus economic relief package.