The National Sea Grant Law Center


  • USDA Announces Aquaculture Commodities Eligible for COVID Aid Program

  • August 17th, 2020 — by Zachary Klein — Category: Aquaculture COVID-19 Seafood

  • On August 11, 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a long-awaited announcement that certain aquaculture producers are eligible for financial assistance under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Although the program was originally launched by the USDA in April to provide assistance to agricultural producers impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19, the agency’s decision to include aquaculture came after a public comment period in June that gave producers and industry the opportunity to submit data demonstrating that various aquaculture commodities meet the criteria for CFAP eligibility.

    The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which authorized and provided funding for the program, requires commodities to have experienced a decline in price of five percent or more between January 15, 2020 and April 15, 2020 in order for their producers to be eligible for CFAP payments. Additionally, aquaculture producers in particular could receive assistance through CFAP only if their products are grown and harvested in controlled environments, such as ponds, tanks, and recirculating systems. The USDA imposed this condition to ensure no duplicate payments between CFAP and another CARES Act relief program, the $300 million assistance fund for coastal and marine fisheries participants that covers some molluscan shellfish, marine algae, and non-salmonid aquaculture operations in state and federal waters. The USDA ultimately concluded that the following aquaculture commodities are eligible for CFAP: catfish, hybrid striped bass, red drum, salmon, sturgeon, tilapia, trout, ornamental and tropical fish, recreational sportfish, crawfish, and largemouth bass and carp sold live as foodfish.

    The announcement regarding aquaculture commodities came alongside a host of updates to CFAP that are relevant to applicants from the aquaculture industry. For example, producers who apply for CFAP will now receive 100% of their total payment once their applications are approved; previously, successful applicants initially received only 80% of their total calculated payment due to concerns that the program would run out of funds. Moreover, the original application deadline of August 28, 2020 has been extended to September 11 for all applicants, aquaculture and non-aquaculture alike. Finally, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers CFAP, has set up a hotline to help producers—especially those who have not worked with FSA previously—begin the application process. The hotline’s phone number is (877) 508-8364.

    The news likely comes as welcome relief to the United States’ aquaculture industry, which had been left in limbo regarding its eligibility for financial assistance under CFAP since April despite the dramatic drop in demand and price that seafood has experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly because of the widespread closure of bars and restaurants. Nevertheless, these producers experienced losses and market disruptions beyond April. As producers begin to submit their applications, interested parties eagerly await a decision as to if and when Congress will approve funds for a second round of CFAP aid amid ongoing negotiations over a new stimulus bill.

  • Zachary Klein
    Ocean and Coastal Law Fellow

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