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Connecticut Lawmakers Push for Expanded Assistance to Shellfish Farmers in Next COVID-19 Economic Relief Package

July 23, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Last Friday evening, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) was joined by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Representatives John Larson (CT-01), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Jim Himes (CT-04), and Jahana Hayes (CT-05) in writing to House and Senate leadership to urge them to provide support for shellfish and aquaculture farmers as they negotiate the next COVID-19 economic relief package. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, the Connecticut delegation asked that $500 million be provided in fisheries assistance, which would include shellfish farmers.

The lawmakers asked that the new funding be specifically targeted towards producers who were ineligible, or did not receive sufficient assistance from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), or from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Section 12005 funds. They note that many aquaculture businesses in Connecticut, including all molluscan shellfish and marine algae, were not made eligible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for CFAP assistance, and that available assistance for this industry from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) amounts to only $450,000.

“In our State of Connecticut, fisheries and aquaculture producers will receive $1.8 million in total funds from NOAA, divided between commercial fishing, recreational fishing, and wholesale and shellfish aquaculture. After these resources have been distributed, the entire shellfish industry in Connecticut will receive approximately $450,00 in assistance, a woefully inadequate sum which will be spread thinly throughout our State’s $30 million industry.

“Providing $500 million in additional NOAA fisheries assistance targeted to the most affected industries – especially shellfish – will be a lifeline to our nation’s shellfish farmers during this economically challenging time.”

The delegation went on to urge the House and Senate leaders to provide additional funding for USDA’s Section 32 purchasing program, with a focus on aiding the shellfish aquaculture sector:

“[…] USDA’s Section 32 program to purchase surplus commodities has provided significant assistance to agricultural enterprises to prevent steep price declines. We believe that shellfish aquaculture are an appropriate candidate to this purchase program. USDA has failed to avail Section 32 purchases to the shellfish industry, and we request additional funds for Section 32 purchases, with an emphasis on sectors that did not receive a purchase thus far in 2020, including shellfish aquaculture.

“We urge you to support this targeted assistance in any future COVID-19 package.”

To read the delegation’s full letter, click here.

The Connecticut delegation has worked to support the shellfish farmers and aquaculture producers throughout the COVID-19 economic crisis. Earlier this month, in a letter led by Senator Chris Murphy, the delegation called on the USDA and Secretary Sonny Perdue to reverse its decision to prohibit shellfish aquaculture 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. Click here to read more.

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.