- Congresswoman Kat Cammack co-introduced the Supporting Equity for Aquaculture and Seafood (SEAS) Act on Tuesday, a piece of bipartisan legislation aiming to reform federal agricultural policy.
- The SEAS Act seeks equal access to federal funding for aquaculture and seafood industries under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), ensuring equitable consideration of animal agriculture.
- The implementation of the SEAS Act could boost Florida’s aquaculture sector, contributing to increased revenue (presently over $100 million annually), enhancing food security, and addressing the imbalance in federal support for aquaculture compared to animal agriculture.
In a move that could have strong economic implications for Florida’s aquaculture sector, Congresswoman Kat Cammack has co-introduced the Supporting Equity for Aquaculture and Seafood (SEAS) Act.
The bipartisan legislation — brought forward by Cammack and New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr — seeks to reform federal agricultural policy, potentially transforming the landscape for Florida’s aquaculture industry and its economic standing.
The SEAS Act primarily works to ensure equal access to federal funding for aquaculture and seafood industries within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Specifically, the bill mandates that the USDA Secretary extends the same level of consideration to aquaculture producers as is afforded to their counterparts in animal agriculture. This entails making adequate and equitable funding available through USDA programs, facilitated by grants.
Florida’s seafood and aquaculture industry presently contributes upwards of $100 million in annual sales, but the SEAS Act’s implementation could amplify that figure, fostering increased revenue generation within the state.
Moreover, by boosting the aquaculture industry, the SEAS Act has the potential to enhance food security by providing locally sourced and sustainable seafood options for Floridians. According to NOAA, the United States imports 70 to 85 percent of its seafood.
“The Sunshine State is a leader in aquaculture production and it’s imperative that we continue this momentum to ensure Americans have safe, sustainable, and affordable seafood across the state and nation,” said Cammack.
Despite the USDA advocating for regular seafood consumption as part of a balanced diet, the distribution of program funding has skewed disproportionately towards animal agriculture and land-based producers, according to Cammack and the bill’s other sponsors. This disparity, they say, has left Florida’s aquaculture producers and coastal communities grappling with inadequate access to vital federal support.
“The SEAS Act will help us meet the growing demand for American seafood and provides critical Congressional support for USDA’s aquaculture programs,” said Pallone in support of Cammack.
Per state data, there are approximately 1,000 certified aquaculture farms in Florida, located in every region of the state, which produce an estimated 1,500 varieties of fish, mollusks, and crustaceans for food markets as well as for sporting, conservation, and educational purposes.
Sales of Florida aquaculture products as reported by the USDA totaled approximately $75 million in 2005, $68.8 million in 2012, and $71.6 million in 2018. Based on the data, Florida ranked 9th in the nation for total overall aquaculture value in 2018, down slightly from 6th place in 2013 and 7th place in 2005, indicating a weakening sector economy.