May 04, 2020

Gillibrand Urges USDA To Include Fishermen And Aquaculture Farmers In Purchase And Distribution Program

With Normal Supply Chains Disrupted by the Coronavirus Pandemic, Farmers to Families Food Box Program Would Give Fisherman and Aquaculture Farmers Essential Support to Distribute Their Goods

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include fishermen and aquaculture farmers in the agency’s food purchasing and distribution program, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. While produce, livestock, and dairy farmers have been supported by the program, commercial fishermen and aquaculture farmers have been largely excluded. The coronavirus pandemic has caused significant disruption in the market for New York’s seafood industry, which relies on restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities to purchase and distribute their goods. 

“Our commercial fishermen and aquaculture farmers are in desperate need of help and support,” said Senator Gillibrand“Including them in the USDA’s innovative Farmers to Families Food Box program will provide them with the critical assistance needed to distribute their goods. These fishermen and aquaculture farmers are vital to feeding New Yorkers and coastal states across the country and they deserve as much support as our farmers and ranchers. It’s important that the USDA approve this request and support our seafood industry during the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.”  

Commercial fisherman and aquaculture farmers all play essential roles in the economies of coastal states like New York and in feeding the entire country. Through the Farmers to Families Food Box program, these producers would have a channel to distribute their goods while normal supply chains are disrupted. This partnership with the USDA would allow distributors and wholesalers to provide a pre-approved box of products to food banks, community and faith based organizations, and other non-profits who are currently serving Americans in need during this public health crisis. 

Senator Gillibrand has worked to provide economic relief for New York’s fisherman throughout the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As New York’s fisheries await much needed disaster funding, Senator Gillibrand called on NOAA to quickly release $300 million allocated for fisheries under the CARES Act. Senator Gillibrand also pushed for New York’s hard hit fisherman to receive economic relief in accordance with per-capita income and local cost of living, which is one of the highest in the United States.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.  

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May 1, 2020

 

The Honorable Sonny Perdue Secretary of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture 

1400 Independence Avenue, SW 

Washington, DC 20250

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:

I am writing in support of our commercial fishermen, shellfish growers, and aquaculture farmers and request they be included in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Purchase and Distribution (Farmers to Families Food Box) Program as a part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) that was funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. I also request additional funding for CFAP, to properly allow for the inclusion of commercial fishermen, shellfish growers, and aquaculture farmers in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Our commercial fishermen, shellfish growers, and aquaculture farmers in New York and around the country have been hard-hit by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has significantly disrupted their markets and the restaurant and food service industry on which they rely. 

As announced, through the Farmers to Families Food Box program, USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith based organizations, and other non-profits who are currently serving Americans in need during this public health crisis. Given that our commercial fishermen, shellfish growers, and aquaculture farmers are hurting, along with our livestock, crop, produce and dairy farmers and ranchers, due to the disruption of their typical markets that include restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, it only makes sense that they be included in the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program as well. Commercial fisherman, shellfish growers, and aquaculture farmers all play essential roles in feeding coastal states like New York.

In order to provide our regional and local distributors, including our commercial fishermen, shellfish growers, and aquaculture farmers, the clarity needed to most effectively utilize funding for this food purchasing and distribution program, I request that the USDA provide Congress with an implementation plan that outlines the necessary changes needed to include fishermen, shellfish growers, and aquaculture farmers in the Farmers to Families Food Box program by Friday, May 8th 2020. 

Our commercial fishermen, shellfish growers, and aquaculture farmers are in desperate need of the federal government’s help and support now more than ever before. I hope that you will seriously consider this request in order to ensure that our fishermen, shellfish growers, and aquaculture farmers can get the same opportunities as our livestock, crop, produce and dairy farmers and ranchers, and get access to the assistance they need to help get them through this very difficult economic time. 

Thank you for your consideration of this request, and I look forward to your prompt response. Should you wish to discuss this matter in further detail, please do not hesitate to reach out to my staff.

Sincerely,