Members of Congress representing the Delmarva region recently led a bicameral and bipartisan group of legislators in writing a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) highlighting the severe impacts COVID-19 is having on the seafood industry and requesting that USDA consider establishing a short-term purchasing program for shellfish products.

The letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and U.S. Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Andy Harris, M.D. (R-Md.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) and Anthony Brown (D-Md.).

“The shellfish industry has been significantly impacted by the disruption in normal supply chains, and these products are ideally positioned to aid USDA’s efforts to address food insecurity during this difficult time. We request that USDA consider establishing a short-term purchasing program for shellfish products, including farmed and wild-caught oyster and clam products, as part of AMS’s Section 32 authority,” wrote the members of Congress.

“Delmarva and the Chesapeake Bay region’s seafood industries generate billions of dollars in economic activity and support tens of thousands of jobs throughout the region,” the letter noted. “In particular, clam and oyster operations across Delmarva and throughout the Chesapeake Bay region are important to local economies and help support regional seafood supply chains.

“Nearly 70 percent of all seafood consumed in the United States is sold at restaurants and hospitality venues. As restaurants were forced to close and continue to adhere to restrictions decreasing service capacity, our local seafood industries, many of which are small businesses, have suffered extreme losses due to substantial reductions in demand,” the legislators wrote in their appeal to the UDSA.