Following Pressure Led by Merkley, USDA Announces $45.9 Million Purchase of Pacific Seafood

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will purchase $45.9 million in Pacific seafood products through its agriculture procurement programs. The purchases follow several Congressional pushes led by Merkley for USDA to support American fishermen and seafood processors by ensuring that Pacific fisheries are not left out of these important purchasing programs.

“Not only do our fisheries deliver incredible products all around the world, they have been the lifeblood of countless communities up and down the West Coast for generations,” said Merkley. “That’s why I’ve been pushing to ensure that our fishermen and seafood processors receive the assistance they need to weather the coronavirus crisis, and I’m glad the USDA is stepping up to make sure our coastal communities can make it through this difficult time.”

“This is a huge win for the West Coast seafood industry and to those who will ultimately receive this sustainable protein source,” said Heather Mann, Director of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative.  “COVID-19 has presented so many challenges to our established fisheries and this unprecedented buy by USDA will certainly go a long way towards easing the negative repercussions of lower demand due to the pandemic. We are grateful to the Oregon Congressional delegation and Senator Merkley for his unwavering support of our industry and his determination to help make this buy happen.”

“This announcement could not have come at a better time for the West Coast seafood industry. We are reeling from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and these bonus buys will provide much-needed relief to our fishermen, processors, and fishing communities.  We are so grateful to the USDA for this opportunity, and we are incredibly thankful for the support we received from our West Coast Congressional delegation to help make this happen,” said Lori Steele, Executive Director, West Coast Seafood Processors Association.

The USDA’s commitment to purchase 4 million dollars of jordani pink shrimp will stimulate the growth of our fleet. This will have a huge impact for the jobs throughout the seafood supply chain,” said Nick Edwards, Secretary, Shrimp Producers Marketing Cooperative.

Last month, Merkley led a group of nine lawmakers—including U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Patty Murray (D-WA), and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3), Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1), Jared Huffman (D-CA-2), and Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6)—in pushing USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack to make sure urgently needed federal assistance is delivered to West Coast fishermen and seafood processors, who have been hit hard by the ongoing coronavirus crisis and were being largely left out of USDA commodity purchasing programs.

That push followed a previous, bipartisan effort that Merkley led in 2020 to urge the USDA to include seafood products in its commodity purchasing programs.

The purchases announced today include $8.9 million for sockeye salmon, $4 million for Pacific pink shrimp, $4 million for Pacific rockfish fillets, $9 million for Pacific whiting fillets, and $20 million for Alaska pollock.