Senators push USDA to buy more West Coast-produced seafood

Senators are pushing the USDA to expand federal buying of seafood processed in the Pacific Northwest.

The West Coast is well-known for its marine life and seafood, harvesting nearly a billion pounds of it every year from the 7,000 miles of shore. Nearly one-seventh of the U.S.'s seafood production comes from Washington, Oregon and California, and a quarter of all seafood processing work is found here, too.

That is why West Coast senators are pushing the Department of Agriculture to step up commodity purchasing of seafood, as families and coastal communities struggle to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers say West Coast seafood dealers and processors saw a steeper revenue decline than all other regions—a staggering $598 million loss, falling around 27% in 2020.

This plummet in revenue is tied directly to restaurant closures and reduced export.

"On average, commercial fishermen on the West Coast deliver more than $500 million in ex-vessel value per annum, accounting for 13% of the value of total U.S. seafood production," wrote senators. "A quarter of all American seafood processing and wholesale jobs are located in Washington, Oregon, and California, representing the largest employment opportunity among all seafood-producing regions in the U.S. The domestic seafood sector is also a critically important component of America’s food production system, supporting more than 1.2 million jobs, generating more than $144 billion in sales impacts, and contributing more than $61 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product."

Lawmakers say the USDA purchased more than $16 million in West Coast seafood products, which provided a much-needed leg up for coastal communities and the local seafood industry.

RELATED: L&I: Sumner seafood plant ignoring COVID protocols led to 16 workers sick, 1 dead

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But, they say it is not enough, reporting that other regions received far more support during the pandemic.