Oregon Delegation Announces $22 Million USDA Seafood Purchase to Boost Oregon’s Coastal Communities and Economy 

Funding announcement comes after Merkley-led letter urged the USDA for more federal support to West Coast fishermen and seafood harvesters, processors, and distributors

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Oregon’s U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Val Hoyle (OR-04), and Andrea Salinas (OR-06), announced today that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a total of $22 million to purchase Pacific Northwest and West Coast seafood products—$14 million for West Coast whiting fillets and $8 million for rockfish fillets.

This approved federal funding comes after Merkley led members of the Oregon delegation in a letter in June to 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.

“Oregon’s fisheries are the lifeblood of our coastal communities, and when they thrive, the whole Oregon Coast thrives,” Merkley said. “This USDA purchasing announcement will boost Oregon’s coastal fishermen and world-class seafood producers while also ensuring high-quality, nutritious seafood is included in food assistance programs here in Oregon, and across the country.”

“In my town halls this year, as well as in years past, up and down the Oregon Coast, I’ve heard firsthand from fishing communities and seafood processors just how hard they’ve been slammed by factors out of their control,” Wyden said. “I’m glad the teamwork with all of these Oregonians on the coast and the delegation has delivered this federal purchase of whiting and rockfish to help weather the economic storm and generate jobs in fishing, processing and distributing.”

“This seafood purchase will support Oregon’s essential fishing industry while strengthening coastal communities and the state’s economy,” said Bonamici. “I am grateful to have worked with the Oregon delegation to help secure another investment in Oregon’s seafood harvesters, processors, and distributors.”

“Today, the USDA announced that they will be purchasing seafood from Oregon fisherman to go to food assistance programs,” Hoyle said. “Given that one in six children in Oregon experiences hunger, we need to continue supporting programs like this to help get healthy food to the tables of those that need it.” 

“I’m pleased to see that USDA has heeded our calls to provide more support for fishermen and seafood processors on the West Coast,” said Salinas. “Fishing is key to our economy and way of life here in Oregon. However, competition from overseas and changing economic factors have made it harder for producers to sell their inventory at fair prices. USDA’s decision to purchase surplus rockfish and whiting will help ensure that our domestic seafood industry can continue to thrive for years to come.”

Purchases will be made under the authority of Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of August 24, 1935, which supports the agriculture and fishing sectors and encourages the continued domestic consumption of locally grown products and caught seafood by diverting it from the normal channels of trade and commerce and into domestic food assistance programs.

“We are extremely grateful to Senator Merkley for his leadership and the entire Oregon delegation for their continued support of our industry,” said Lori Steele, Executive Director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association. “This comes as much-needed good news during very challenging times for seafood processors. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to again partner with the USDA to provide sustainable, nutritious Oregon seafood to food assistance programs across the country.”

“With the current state of the national and global seafood market, this purchase is really important not just for harvesters and processors, but to those communities that benefit from the USDA purchases,” said Heather Mann, Executive Director of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative. “With the recommendations for increased seafood intake for children and healthy brain development, the USDA purchases that end up in the National School Lunch Program are critical to developing brains in underserved communities. I applaud Oregon’s congressional delegation for their continued efforts to support their fishing communities and those who benefit from the healthy protein.”

“We appreciate our Congressional Delegation for their unwavering support for the Oregon fishing industry,” said Rex Leach, Chairman of the Oregon Trawl Commission. “Oregon trawl fishing sector produces a variety of healthy sustainable seafood products, and we are very pleased that it is included in the USDA national purchasing programs.”