Communications section banner - coastal birds

Graves Announces Major Update on Aid for Shrimp Fishermen and COVID-19 Food Assistance Programs

The win-win-win will address food shortages and keep local jobs afloat

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) decision to purchase U.S. shrimp for distribution to community food and nutrition programs nationwide after Graves worked with the USDA to secure a commitment of up to 20 million pounds from Louisiana and Gulf Coast shrimpers and processors. By supplying healthy U.S. shrimp, members of the American Shrimp Processors Association can clear their inventory to sustain their businesses in the meantime, shrimpers can sell their catch and communities in need can be fed.

Graves has worked with the USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the USDA, and the American Shrimp Processors Association on this purchase throughout the COVID-19 pandemic response efforts. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, included additional support for USDA programs that provide food to distressed communities.

Graves statement is below:

“This is a win-win-win for all of Louisiana’s consumers, families and local fishermen as the coronavirus has impacted everyone across the board. For many families across Louisiana, this will help feed food banks, schools and households. Shrimp are also full of protein and vitamins, providing a much healthier option to communities in need compared to the raisins, prunes and tart cherries they’ve included on the commodity list.

“This is also a much-needed shot in the arm for South Louisiana as one out of every 70 jobs dependent on the industry, creating an economic impact in the billions annually and serving as the economic engine of local communities. We are one of the nation’s leaders on shrimp, crawfish, blue crabs and oysters – as well as recreational fishing of which we are one of the top states in the country.

“Additionally, Louisiana is one of the top fisheries states in the nation and we are still hurting from the Bonnet Carre Spillway opening last year – and the coronavirus has made matters worse for the shrimp fishermen. Today’s announcement will absolutely help bridge the gap between further loss for our processors and fleet, and be the lifeline needed to stay afloat until our economy is back on track.”

“Thank you to Secretary Perdue, Dr. Veal and the Louisiana Sea Grant group for all your efforts on this huge relief for our country.”

Background on Graves Working toward Relief for Fisheries and Communities during COVID-19:

On April 6, 2020, Graves worked with the USDA to secure a commitment of up to 20 million pounds from Louisiana and Gulf Coast shrimpers and processors. Graves sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue thanking him for directing the AMS for purchasing the wild-caught, warm-water shrimp landed in the U.S. Graves has worked with the USDA, AMS and the American Shrimp Processors Association on this purchase throughout the COVID-19 pandemic response efforts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also issued guidance in April based both on legislation passed and requested by Graves. The legislation will enable FEMA, the State (Louisiana), or parishes an opportunity to either acquire food for hunger organizations like the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank to distribute or to provide financial resources for food banks to acquire and distribute food.

On April 10, 2020, Graves sent a letter to Governor John Bel Edwards and FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor highlighting the existing authority under the Stafford Act, which was activated by the presidential disaster declaration, that allows Louisiana, USDA and FEMA to expeditiously intervene in the urgent matter. In 2018, Congress passed Graves’ legislation to specifically create the authority for FEMA, states and parishes to collaborate with food banks.

On May 7, 2020, Graves released a statement regarding the $14,785,244 allocated to Louisiana fisheries to mitigate the economic hardships accrued by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress included $300 million to address impacts to recreational and commercial fishers who have been negatively affected by COVID–19. To read more about the U.S. Department of Commerce allocation process and a summary of allocations, click here.

On May 20, 2020, Graves also announced Louisiana would receive an additional $58,343,185 in fishery disaster funding to offset the impacts of the 2019 Bonnet Carre Spillway opening on Louisiana’s fisheries and other impacts. Louisiana became eligible to receive this disaster assistance due to the previously declared disaster declarations for fishing communities by the U.S. Department of Commerce after Hurricane Michael. Congress appropriated $100 million in the 2019 Consolidated and Supplemental Appropriations Act to address the impact of excessive freshwater, the Bonnet Carre Spillway opening and other impacts in 2019. Louisiana’s share is two-thirds of the total funding, the highest of the $88 million released. There is a remaining $12 million to be allocated at a later date.