U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton of Arkansas have joined colleagues to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to help sustain aquaculture producers in the Arkansas.


The senators recommended that USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue use $9.5 billion in the CARES Act and his authority under the Commodity Credit Corporation as well as the authority to purchase excess inventory to support this industry, according to an April 13 news release.


Boozman, Cotton, Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) sent a letter to Perdue asking that he use emergency supplemental funding and other authorities to assist farm-raised fish producers and processors.


“All aspects of the domestic aquaculture industry have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote. “Approximately 60 percent of catfish processor sales go to foodservice dining establishments. Foodservice sales are down more than 65 percent across all seafood sectors because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Fish inventories continue to build, which is creating significant cash-flow challenges for processors and depressed prices for producers.”


“As the department moves forward in determining how it will allocate resources to support injured sectors of the agriculture industry, we respectfully request that you consider providing grants directly to states, as has been done in the past, to assist aquaculture producers,” the lawmakers said.