September 30, 2020

Bay Senators Applaud USDA Decision to Support Local Oyster, Clam Businesses Facing Economic Hardship Due to COVID-19

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) and Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.) applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow oyster and clam businesses to access funds included within the CARES Act Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The Senators penned a letter in July urging USDA to include these businesses – many of which are small and family owned – given the economic hardship they’re facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Maryland’s small oyster and clam businesses are crucial to our local economy. But like many during this pandemic, they’re struggling to get by. Providing them access to these relief funds will help ensure that they can continue to make ends meet during this difficult time. I’m glad to see USDA heeded our calls, and I will continue working to support this vital local industry,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“Shellfish growing, harvesting and transport are vitally important to Maryland’s rural economies, and those engaged in these industries illustrate the hard work and determination that define so many of Maryland’s small businesses,” said Senator Cardin. “I’ve worked for years to expand markets and streamline regulations so these industries can expand, yet the pandemic has dealt an unforeseen blow to many producers. This assistance will provide a critical infusion of aid, hopefully allowing these aquaculture producers to persist until their markets return in full.”   

“Virginia’s shellfish farmers are hurting. Due to the pandemic, they have experienced massive losses in sales that would normally go to restaurants. We have continually pushed USDA to do all that they can to help our shellfish producers withstand these difficult circumstances. This move by the USDA will provide much needed relief to these businesses, many of which are family owned and operated,” said Senator Kaine. 

“Like other agricultural producers, the seafood and shellfish aquaculture industry in Virginia has suffered greatly as a result of this health and economic crisis,” said Senator Warner. “Compounded by supply chain and labor disruptions, this financial blow has strained many family-owned businesses who now find themselves with their backs against the wall. That’s why I’m glad that USDA has finally complied with our request to include these businesses in the relief programs established and funded by Congress. I trust that this will provide many independent seafood businesses with the reprieve they need to continue operations and emerge stronger after this crisis is over.” 

More details on the program, including application information, can be found here. USDA will be accepting applications from now through December 11, 2020.