Southern Shrimp Alliance Celebrates the Introduction of the LESS Act

In the nine-year period spanning from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Census Bureau report that the federal government collected at least $340 million in duties assessed on imports of shrimp.  Because CBP’s data are incomplete and do not include information for three years of that period, the actual amount collected in shrimp duties is much higher and likely to have been between $450 and $500 million.

Although antidumping duties collected on shrimp imports that entered the United States prior to October 1, 2006 had been distributed to members of the domestic shrimp industry under the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act (CDSOA), that program has not applied to duties collected on shrimp imported into the United States after September 2006. 

Rather than benefit the U.S. shrimp industry, collected duties have gone to the U.S. Treasury, with thirty percent of this amount earmarked for funding NOAA Fisheries each year.  Yet, over the last several years, NOAA Fisheries has cut services provided to the commercial shrimp industry while pushing expenses associated with the agency’s regulations onto fishermen.  Thus, where the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s trade litigation used to result in significant funds going to the industry under CDSOA, since the elimination of the program, any increased duties now won by SSA have perversely contributed to additional regulation of commercial shrimpers. 

Through The Laws Ensuring Safe Shrimp Act,or LESS Act, Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced legislation that provides balance to how these federal funds are used.  Under the LESS Act, amounts equivalent to seventy percent of the duties collected on imports of shrimp are deposited into an “Inspection and Consumption of Shrimp and Shrimp Products Fund.”  Half of the monies in the fund are to be used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to eliminate banned antibiotics from shrimp supply chains, while the other half would be utilized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to finance purchases of shrimp for the agency’s distribution programs.

Once enacted, the LESS Act would ensure that, beyond collected antidumping duties, the roughly $60 million in Section 301 duties collected on Chinese shrimp imports since fiscal year 2019 was used to bolster the FDA’s enforcement of the import alert on Chinese farmed shrimp (Import Alert 16-131), with the ultimate goal of removing antibiotics from Chinese aquaculture.  Similarly, the LESS Act also directs that the millions of dollars collected as regular customs duties on imports of prepared shrimp are employed to make healthy, wholesome shrimp landed by commercial fishermen available to the American public.

The LESS Act is co-sponsored by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) and reflects bipartisan recognition of the deep and serious challenges currently facing the U.S. shrimp industry. 

Tomorrow, on July 15th, federal waters off of the coast of Texas will re-open to commercial shrimpers.  The Texas re-opening should be a time of anticipation and optimism for the industry, but not this year.  Facing record levels of imports overwhelming cold storage inventory across the country, the U.S. market for domestic shrimp is bleak and fishermen plan on staying tied up at the docks rather than absorbing losses for a catch they cannot sell.

The LESS Act offers long-term relief for the shrimp industry, by massively increasing the ability of the FDA to prevent contaminated shrimp that cannot be sold in other markets from reaching American consumers and by helping to create a stable, consistent market for domestic shrimp through increased purchases of shrimp by the USDA’s Section 32 program.  In addition, the LESS Act significantly strengthens the capacity of federal agencies to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and forced labor in seafood supply chains.

“Pushed to the margins by cheap imports tainted with harmful chemicals, shrimpers are struggling to sell their catch and are confronting one of the worst years this industry has ever experienced.  The LESS Act is proof that Congress has a vital role in the continued viability of our shrimp industry,” said John Williams, Executive Director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance.  “Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) have proposed a brilliant, creative approach to help our fishermen by using funds that our industry has largely generated for the federal government.”

Review details regarding H.R. 4547, the The Laws Ensuring Safe Shrimp Act, here:

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