WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — Without restaurants, cafeterias and markets, fish farmers could soon go under water.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA, is most concerned about his state’s crawfish industry, which has lost the majority of its sales amid the coronavirus crisis.
“It’s more than dollars and cents. It’s more than arithmetic. It’s a part of our culture,” Kennedy said. “I can’t imagine Louisiana without crawfish.”
For Sen. John Boozman, R-AR, it’s catfish.
“About 60 percent of the fish they produce goes to restaurants and institutions,” Boozman said. “That business now is almost nonexistent. They’ve got lots of stock and no place to go with it.”
Catfish and crawfish each bring in more than $300 million to the U.S. annual economy.
Congress included $9.5 billion for all farmers in the latest round of coronavirus relief. Boozman and Kennedy are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure a portion of those funds goes to the aquaculture industry.
Secretary Sonny Perdue said his department has been working to expedite the funding since President Trump signed the bill into law.
“There are a lot of sectors affected, and we’re trying to be as inclusive as we can be in listening to them and their requests and their needs,” Perdue said.
Perdue is working with the White House to finalize a plan for direct payments to farmers. In the meantime, he said USDA is also working to channel the supply to a new customer: food banks.