U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have approved a $52 million purchase of Pacific Northwest seafood products, a deal that Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden say will provide a boost to the state’s seafood industry after being hard hit by COVID-19 and climate chaos.
The deal includes the purchase of $22 million in Pacific whiting fillets, $18 million in Pacific rockfish fillets and $12 million in Pacific pink shrimp.
“Not only do our fisheries deliver incredible products all around the world, they have been the lifeblood of communities up and down Oregon’s coast for generations,” Merkley said. “This announcement ensures Oregon’s coastal fishermen and seafood producers receive critical financial assistance needed to continue operating and providing services here in Oregon and beyond.”
Merkley, who had led several congressional efforts to ensure that the U.S. Department of Agriculture included Pacific Northwest seafood processors in its purchasing programs, said he was elated by the USDA purchase.
Merkley and Wyden are both long-time advocates for the fisheries. Last fall, the two Oregon Democrats secured $16.5 million in Pacific seafood purchases, and in April they were lead signers of a letter urging USDA to continue purchasing West Coast seafood.
The USDA purchase announcement was also hailed by Lori Steele, executive director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, in Astoria, Oregon.
“We have been able to keep our doors open, our processing employees working, and nutritious, sustainable seafood flowing to the American public, thanks in part to the USDA’s purchases these last two years,” Steele said. “These purchases will continue to help supplement and stabilize our fishing and processing crews and their families through the rest of the year.”
The purchases, announced in late July, are being made under the authority of Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of August 24, 1935, which supports the fishing sector and encourages continued domestic consumption of locally caught seafood by diverting it from normal trade and commerce and into domestic food assistance programs.
Section 32 funds are used by the Secretary of Agriculture to purchase surplus commodities for donation to school lunch programs and to support child nutrition programs.