Monday, June 24, 2024

Edwards requests emergency declaration to help Louisiana shrimping industry

by BIZ Magazine
a bunch of shrimp that are laying on the ground

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested an emergency declaration for disaster relief for Louisiana shrimpers amid a flood of foreign shrimp that has driven dockside prices to below $1 per pound.

Edwards made the request in late August at the behest of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, which penned a letter to the governor in August seeking the declaration, the first step in securing disaster relief funding for shrimpers from the federal government.

“Louisiana will be pursuing a federal fisheries disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Commerce,” Edwards wrote to association president Acy Cooper.

“Additionally, I sent the attached letter to President Biden asking for additional funding for testing of imported shrimp by the Food and Drug Administration,” Edwards wrote, “as well as support for random testing, seizure and destruction of shrimp that contain banned substances, and implementation of a quota on the amount of shrimp imported from other countries.”

Cooper noted in his letter to Edwards that “due to the influx of imported shrimp entering the state of Louisiana, which is allowing foreign countries to dominate our Louisiana shrimp industry … shrimp harvesters are receiving lower than $1 per pound for their shrimp product which is lower than they have ever received in years past.”

The situation, combined with rising operating and fuel costs, means “commercial fishing vessels are forced to remain dockside and businesses are being forced to shut down their operations,” Cooper wrote.

Cooper’s letter came the same day the Southern Shrimp Alliance made requests for disaster declarations from Edwards, and from governors in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas.

“The U.S. shrimp fishery throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast region is suffering an unprecedented catastrophic crisis that threatens its very existence and the many small family owned businesses that are at the core of the economies of coastal communities throughout the region,” the letter read.

It cites the record high global supply of predominately farm-raised shrimp that has outpaced demand, doubling between 2013 and 2021 to 1.8 billion pounds.

“Faced with the choice of losing money on a trip — or not being able to sell their catch at all — shrimp fishermen throughout the region remain tied to the dock with no income at the height of the season,” the letter read.

The alliance points to changes for the federal Fishery Disaster Assistance program approved by Congress in 2022 that allows the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to provide relief to fisheries impacted by man-made disasters “otherwise beyond the control of fishery managers to mitigate through conservation and management measures.” Any financial relief would be subject to congressional appropriations.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., has also taken action to crack down on shrimp imports, which often come with illegal antibiotics. Graves introduced legislation last month with Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., that would provide funding for the FDA to test shrimp imports to ensure they’re free of illegal chemicals, safe for human consumption, and do not originate from illegal fishing practices. The bill follows Graves’ successful efforts to compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase $25 million in U.S. shrimp for federal nutrition programs to boost the industry.

“Shrimp packed with illegal antibiotics cannot be allowed to take over our market, and it’s unacceptable to be okay with anyone consuming a lower-quality product that puts their health at risk,” Graves said in an August statement. “This is an avoidable hardship for one of Louisiana’s biggest economic drivers and that’s why we are pushing this legislation.”

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