WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has authorized the purchase of up to $30 million in U.S.-produced shrimp for distribution to community food and nutrition programs nationwide.
The announcement comes after the Mississippi lawmakers sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting that he use his authority to purchase and distribute Gulf seafood to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic. Recently-enacted legislation, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, includes additional support for USDA programs that provide food to distressed communities.
“For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced they will be purchasing U.S.-produced shrimp to distribute to communities in need,” Wicker said. “At a time when American families and seafood producers alike are suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, this agreement will provide healthy, high-quality protein for American dinner tables and support the vibrant domestic shrimping industry, which employs thousands of people across the southern United States.”
“The Mississippi shrimp industry will have an opportunity to sell its product to the USDA for use by food banks and nonprofit organizations helping communities hit hard by this ongoing pandemic. Adding shrimp to the list of commonly purchased foods under the USDA Section 32 Program will help address supply chain disruptions and overall demand challenges associated with COVID-19. I’m grateful to Secretary Perdue for recognizing how this purchase decision will help an important Gulf Coast industry and those in need,” said Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
“Mississippi’s seafood is second to none, and I am thankful for the opportunity to share our seafood with families in need across the United States. The coronavirus has posed many burdens but through Section 32 and other USDA programs, putting food on the table is one burden we can eliminate,” Palazzo said.
The $30 million purchase is expected to have a positive impact for Mississippi shrimp producers and processors. Much of the nation’s shrimp is caught in the Gulf of Mexico and processed for domestic consumption, which has seen sharp drops because of restaurant closures during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Mississippi’s shrimp industry has been hit hard by COVID19, with many vessels having to stay tied to the dock due to collapsing markets. We are glad to hear the USDA is stepping up purchases of Gulf shrimp and applaud the hard work of our Congressional delegation to make it happen,” said Ryan Bradley, Executive Director of Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United.
“This is a win-win, a huge victory for both the American consumer and the wild-caught American shrimp fisherman. The shrimp industry will see much needed inventory relief and the American public will have access to fresh seafood with great health benefits. We thank Senator Wicker and the Mississippi congressional delegation for their efforts,” said Dr. C. David Veal, Executive Director of the American Shrimp Processors Association.
The purchase is authorized under Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1953. “Section 32 purchases” are provided to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service nutrition assistance programs, including food banks that operate The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
The Section 32 shrimp purchase is the latest significant action of importance to Mississippi. In May, the USDA agreed to purchase $30 million in farm-raised catfish products for distribution to food banks and community support programs.