Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in support of aquaculture farmers’ eligibility for direct relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
“Maine’s aquaculture industry has undergone significant growth and diversification in recent years, creating new jobs and economic opportunities in our state. We are committed to ensuring that our state’s growing industry remains stable throughout this unanticipated downturn,” wrote the Delegation. “As the Department works to distribute CFAP funding, we urge you to ensure aquaculture farmers are among those eligible to receive much needed direct relief payments from USDA.”
Similar to other farmers across the country, aquaculture farmers in the State of Maine have suffered greatly due to COVID-19. Maine’s aquaculture operations cultivate a range of seafood products, from eastern oysters and blue mussels to seaweed and scallops. These farms rely heavily on the restaurant industry to keep their businesses afloat.
"The Maine Delegation has worked tirelessly to ensure that Maine’s working waterfront communities and families have access to the programs that will help them weather the current crisis and continue their maritime heritage. Maine seafood producers have been especially hard hit by COVID-19, and we greatly appreciate the Delegation’s advocacy and leadership on behalf of Maine's working waterfronts," said Sebastian Belle, Executive Director of the Maine Aquaculture Association.
"The COVID-19 crisis has ravaged aquaculture farms far worse than any storm we have experienced; while we are used to working in an unforgiving environment, the pandemic has led to unprecedented losses and an even more precarious future for our farms. We would like to thank our congressional representatives for helping to ensure the CARES Act relief package includes our farms so that we can continue to carry on Maine's proud working waterfront tradition," said Jeff Auger of Mook Sea Farm.
"Aquaculture farmers took a huge hit when we shut down the restaurants and we greatly appreciate the efforts of our congressional allies in trying to make sure we don't slip through the cracks and get left out of the CARES Act relief package,” said Bob Rheault, Executive Director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association (ECSGA).
Click HERE to read the full letter.