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After Repeated Calls for Support from USDA, Connecticut Lawmakers Announce Long-Awaited Financial Assistance for Shellfish Farmers

September 18, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Connecticut Congressional delegation announced that after months of making the case to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue for expanded federal assistance to Connecticut shellfish farmers, the USDA has finally announced that shellfish farmers will be eligible for financial assistance through round two of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2). The announcement comes on the heels of the delegation’s most recent letter to USDA this week urging them to provide Connecticut shellfish farmers access to round two of CFAP, as well as other forms of federal assistance.
In a news release issued today, USDA announced that an additional $14 billion in Congressionally authorized funding will be made available to agricultural producers through CFAP 2, including to producers of aquaculture products. Certain shellfish farmers were excluded by USDA in round one of CFAP, which began in May, and the Connecticut Congressional delegation has been pressing USDA and Secretary Perdue to expand the program ever since.

 “Congress authorized billions in federal assistance for our farmers, but USDA’s decisions on what to do with that funding for the past three months have put our Connecticut shellfish farmers in real financial jeopardy,” the delegation wrote in a joint statement. “The USDA blocked Connecticut shellfish farmers from access to CFAP back in May, they failed to include them in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, and they denied them eligibility for Section 32 purchases even while approving other similar products. Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, and it’s a good outcome on the heels of our Monday letter to Secretary Perdue, but our shellfish farmers should have had this this access from the start. USDA needs to move them to the front of the line for CFAP 2 assistance, and in the meantime we won’t stop pressing to grant them access to other streams of federal assistance.”

 The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program was authorized by Congress through the bipartisan CARES Act to provide direct financial relief to farmers and agricultural producers impacted by market disruptions brought on by COVID-19. In today’s news release, the USDA notes that the new round of funding in CFAP 2 will be used to support row and specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture, and many other commodities. Signup for CFAP 2 will begin on September 21st, and will run through December 11th. Click here to learn more. 

 The Connecticut Congressional delegation has been pushing Secretary Perdue and USDA to provide shellfish farmers with Congressionally authorized financial assistance since May, when USDA made the decision to exclude aquaculture producers from CFAP eligibility. Most recently, this past week, the delegation sent a letter to USDA led by Rep. Joe Courtney requesting that USDA make these shellfish farmers eligible for Round 2 of CFAP.

 In a July letter, in a letter led by Senator Chris Murphy, the delegation called on Secretary Perdue to reverse USDA’s decision to prohibit shellfish farmers from being eligible for direct payments through CFAP. In their letter, the lawmakers noted that the CARES Act allows shellfish agriculture to receive funding through USDA, and allowing additional resources to shellfish farmers will help weather the storm due to COVID-19.

 On July 23rd, in a letter led by Rep. Joe Courtney, the delegation wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, to urge them to provide support for shellfish and aquaculture farmers in the next COVID-19 economic relief package.

In June, Rep. Courtney wrote to USDA Secretary Perdue and to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross requesting immediate assistance for aquaculture producers in Connecticut to access new funding through the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), or other additional funds through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Click here to read more.