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ECSGA Legislative Priorities
Shellfish aquaculture, the largest sector of marine aquaculture, is sustainable and provides significant improvements to coastal water quality and wild fisheries. Throughout the recession, shellfish production has continued to grow, providing critical jobs and economic production in rural coastal areas hurt by declining wild fisheries harvests. Resource managers understand that expanded production will yield green jobs with health benefits and environmental improvements. Shellfish farmers are challenged by a variety of regulatory and funding issues:
1) EU Trade Embargo – In 2009 a trade dispute erupted between FDA regulators and their European Union counterparts. FDA inspectors disputed the long-standing equivalency of various aspects of the EU shellfish sanitation protocols, blocking the import of European products to the US. The EU retaliated by barring imports of U.S. shellfish, blocking our access to lucrative European markets.
Once the FDA approves imports from these areas to the U.S. we expect it will break the impasse and force EU regulators to reopen their markets to our products.
2) Clean Water Issues – Non-point source pollution from leaching septic systems and urban and agricultural runoff is a major source of nutrients in sensitive coastal waters. These nutrients lead to algal blooms, and low-oxygen conditions. Excess nutrients are the major cause of degraded rivers and coastal waters. Limiting fertilizer runoff and upgrading sewage treatment plants in our nation’s estuaries creates and protects critical jobs and shellfish growing areas.
3) Expand funding for research and development – Shellfish aquaculture research is funded through a patchwork of USDA and NOAA programs. The industry has been growing vigorously, but federal research funding has leveled or declined for several years. Since the industry is dominated by small producers it is difficult to fund the research and marketing efforts needed to advance it. We are faced with significant challenges in the fields of disease, climate change, production methods and food safety. Funding challenges in NOAA may lead to the closure of the nation's only cold-water aquaculture research facility in Milford, CT.
4) H-2B Visas and Immigration Reform - The H-2B program is essential to the economic vitality of our members who need access to legal, short-term, temporary workers during peak business periods.
5) FDA restrictions on raw shellfish – In 2009 the FDA announced that it intended to require Post-Harvest Processing of all oysters harvested in the Gulf States from April through October to address shellfish-related, food-borne illnesses from naturally occurring Vibrio bacteria. Such actions would have a devastating economic impact on producers, dealers and restaurants. Consumers prefer fresh oysters and are unwilling to pay more for processed, dead oysters. A recent FDA cost analysis revealed that mandated processing of Gulf oysters would force the closure of over 200 shellfish dealers, putting 2,000 people out of work.
6) Shellfish Breeding Center – Several devastating parasitic diseases threaten shellfish crops. New genetic tools could help to identify genetic markers, allowing us to accelerate selective breeding efforts that would lead to domesticated strains with improved survival and growth rates. These tools have led to dramatic increases in chicken-meat yield and cow’s-milk production. Even modest investments in shellfish breeding will yield dramatic improvements in survival and profitability.
The total appropriation required for USDA-ARS is $3 million annually. This project was written into the base budget for FY2010, but never passed. This Center would hire three geneticists and provide funds for grow-out trials with hundreds of lines in several states. This effort would bring significant resources to six participating institutions: the University of Maine, the University of Rhode Island, Rutgers, the University of Maryland, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
For more information on these issues please contact:
View a PDF version of the ECSGA's 2013 Legislative Priorities.
To see the ECSGA's past legislative priorities, follow the links to legislative agendas of previous years: