Merkley, Wyden, Bonamici, Hoyle, Salinas Urge Continued Support for West Coast Fishermen and Oregon’s Seafood Industry

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, alongside U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Val Hoyle (OR-04), and Andrea Salinas (OR-06) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Administrator Bruce Summers, who oversees the agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service, calling on the USDA to deliver critical federal support to West Coast fishermen and seafood harvesters, processors, and distributors.

“Commercial fishing and seafood processing on the West Coast are significant contributors to the nation’s seafood production and agricultural economy,” escribieron los legisladores. “The industry serves as the economic backbone for numerous small ports and rural coastal communities in Oregon. Fishing activities are deeply ingrained in the local culture and way of life across the Oregon Coast.” 

The West Coast seafood industry has been largely left out of previous USDA commodity purchasing programs in the past, until the lawmakers successfully pushed for major purchasing breakthroughs in recent years, including the USDA’s $52 million purchase of Pacific Groundfish and seafood products last year. This change has proven essential, especially for Oregon’s smaller coastal communities that are continuing to recover from the devasting impacts spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, international conflicts, and many other factors.

“In addition, an influx of imported species and substitutes from other countries has intensified competition in the domestic market, making it difficult for domestic producers to sell their inventory at desired prices,” continuaron los legisladores. “Specifically, Rockfish and Whiting harvesting and production has been subject to changing economic factors such as changes in disposable income, unemployment rates, and consumer confidence that have impacted the demand for seafood products, leading to surplus inventory.”

The lawmakers’ letter calls on USDA to include Pacific Northwest and West Coast seafood products that are currently produced in large volumes and that are easily accessible and transportable in this year’s Section 32 purchases for immediate distribution to food assistance programs. This includes West Coast Whiting fillets and Rockfish fillets in 2024.

“We greatly appreciate the efforts that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made to support our industry in recent years. These continue to be extremely challenging times, and we cannot overstate the significance of the USDA’s actions to expand procurement programs to include greater quantities of domestically produced seafood,” concluyeron los legisladores.

El texto completo de la carta se puede encontrar aquí.