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Graves Announces Relief Opportunity for Crawfish with Expansion of USDA Program

August 12, 2020
Press Release
Part of Graves’ effort to keep Louisiana’s seafood industries afloat amidst COVID-19

BATON ROUGE, LA – U.S. Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) announced that Louisiana crawfish is now included in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Graves has been pushing the USDA to make this critical program extension a reality as Louisiana’s seafood industry has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The addition of crawfish into CFAP is the latest outcome of Graves’ ongoing efforts to deliver federal help to Louisiana’s seafood industry across the board.

“Louisiana crawfishers are feeling the heat as the pandemic has crushed demand, and CFAP is definitely not a substitute for getting our economy – or the ultimate catalyst needed to boost customer demand – back up and running. But this is a major win for our local businesses as crawfish are the integral part of a bowl of etouffee proving yet again Louisiana feeds America. It is going to help some of our guys out of a pinch as we all hold out hope that the tail-end of this thing is close,” Graves said. “And important to note, this is part of the larger across the board relief we’ve sought as the pandemic has thrown more salt in the wound for Louisiana’s seafood industries. We are still hurting from the Bonnet Carre Spillway opening last year, falsely labeled crawfish from overseas, and shrimp taking precedent in the market over our domestic and sustainable seafood products – which is why providing relief to these industries in response to the pandemic has been a priority of mine until we get the economy back on track.”

USDA has extended the deadline for the pond farmers to apply for the federal COVID-10 relief program to September 11th. Under the program, USDA will provide direct payments to crawfish farmers. For more information on qualifications for the assistance, click here.

This update is separate from the recent news last week regarding the Section 32 purchase of shrimp by USDA as this announcement allows the USDA Farm Service Agency to provide pandemic relief for producers that face price declines and additional marketing costs. More information on relief efforts below.

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

Last week, Graves announced the 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.

On April 6, 2020, Graves worked with the USDA to secure the 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.