On June 17, 2022, Representatives Garret Graves (R-LA) and Jerry L. Carl (R-AL) sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture continue to purchase wild-caught shrimp pursuant to the agency’s “Section 32” procurement program in fiscal year 2022. Reps. Graves and Carl observed that the USDA purchased over 9 million pounds of shrimp under this authority in 2020 and 2021 and noted that the USDA’s program was of an even greater importance to the shrimp industry now because of a unique set of current circumstances.
Yesterday, the Southern Shrimp Alliance communicated its strong support for Reps. Graves’ and Carl’s request in a letter to President Joe Biden. In its correspondence, the Southern Shrimp Alliance explained how the confluence of unprecedented events has placed this season in dire peril with fishermen deeply concerned as to whether they will be able to work at all this year.
The single largest cost in the operation of a shrimp fishing vessel is fuel, with a recent analysis by NOAA Fisheries finding that fuel may comprise one-third (or more) of a shrimp boat’s total costs. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that, for the first time ever, No. 2 diesel retail prices in the Gulf of Mexico crossed the $5 a gallon mark in May and have remained above that level ever since. Last June, diesel cost $3 a gallon and in June 2020, it was $2 a gallon. All told, any boat needing 20,000 gallons of fuel to make a trip has to come up with $100,000 to leave the dock – $47,000 more than last year and $64,000 more than in 2020.
Costs to fishermen are exploding upwards while imported shrimp is flooding the market. So far this year, the total volume of shrimp imports is up nearly 15 percent compared to last year. If this pattern holds for the remainder of 2022, the United States will import over 2 billion pounds of shrimp, twice what the country imported just ten years ago.
The massive influx of imported shrimp into this market is pushing prices for imports downward, meaning that the U.S. shrimp industry must compete with huge volumes of increasing imports at declining prices.
Sky-high fuel prices combined with rock-bottom shrimp prices have stirred intense anxiety at docks throughout the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. Over the last twenty years, from hurricanes to oil spills, the American shrimp industry has weathered a seemingly unending number of unique existential challenges. How the industry will be able to bypass this brewing storm has yet to be seen.
“One of the toughest things for any of us to do is to ask for help,” said John Williams, the Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “But, right now, our industry needs any help that the federal government can provide. We are grateful to Rep. Garret Graves and Rep. Jerry L. Carl for requesting that the USDA make additional purchases of shrimp and for drawing attention to how important these purchases are to our industry.”
Read the June 17th letter from Reps. Garret Graves (R-LA) and Rep. Jerry L. Carl (R-AL) to the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack here: https://www.shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/06.17.2022-GG-Letter-to-USDA-re-Section-32-Shrimp-Purchase-FINAL.pdf
Read the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s June 27th letter to President Biden here: https://www.shrimpalliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/SSA-Letter-to-President-Biden-June-27.pdf