Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has voted in support
of the 2018 farm bill (“Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018”), which includes a
key provision advocated for by Whitehouse to support the aquaculture industry’s
growth. The farm bill passed the Senate in an 86 to 11 vote yesterday
“Rhode Island shellfish farmers produce some
of the best oysters in the country,” said Whitehouse. “I’m proud that the
Senate has adopted our suggestions to give this sustainable industry the
certainty it needs to keep growing and creating jobs.”
Earlier this month, Whitehouse joined Senators
Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to advocate for better insurance options for shellfish farmers, which would give the aquaculture
industry more certainty. Current insurance options are inadequate and
often hamstring farmers from expanding their operations. Shellfish
farmers are at a high risk of losing their crops because of weather events,
diseases, and changes in the marine environment. These risks amplify the
need for farmers to have workable, affordable insurance options like those
available to land farmers.
Shellfish face different kinds of risks as
they grow. The senators’ proposal to insure each of the life stages of
shellfish as separate crops was included in the farm bill. The bill also
includes the senators’ recommendation to include other types of shellfish like
clams and scallops in the crop insurance program, which currently only covers
Rhode Island’s aquaculture industry has grown
dramatically over the past two decades. The state’s 73 shellfish farms
sold more than 8.4 million oysters in 2017, according to the Rhode Island
Coastal Resources Management Council. While oysters comprise the bulk of
Rhode Island’s shellfish aquaculture production, farmers in Rhode Island also
grow clams, scallops, and mussels.
The 2018 farm bill incorporates a number of
other provisions advocated for by both Senators Whitehouse and Jack Reed
(D-R.I.), including maintaining support for USDA conservation and nutrition
programs, providing better margin protections for dairy farmers, and expanding
food assistance programs for seniors and improving access to healthy fruits and
vegetables in low-income neighborhoods. The legislation does not include
an item that was included in the House version of the bill requiring states to
track individuals’ work history in order to receive Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program benefits.
This bill’s passage follows a string of
legislative successes for Whitehouse during the 115th Congress, including:
]$30 million for the National Ocean
and Coastal Security Fund to support work that helps Americans understand and
adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and other coastal hazards.
Bipartisan legislation to spur
investment in next-generation carbon capture, utilization, and storage
technologies, putting a dollar value on the reducing carbon pollution driving
Whitehouse’s legislation to extend
permanently vital foreclosure protection for servicemembers, veterans, and
$350 million to forgive student loan
debt for teachers, first responders, social workers and others in public
service, which was based on Whitehouse’s legislation to address
problems with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
Bipartisan legislation to increase
collaboration between private industry, universities, and national laboratories
in developing and bringing to market advanced nuclear technologies.
Bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), making important
improvements to the way we treat young people in our criminal justice system.
Bipartisan legislation to address the
marine debris epidemic affecting America’s oceans, shorelines, and inland
waterways, as well as other coasts across the globe.
Bipartisan legislation to help
behavioral health care providers – like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals
– adopt electronic health records.
Bipartisan legislation to encourage
governments to help tech companies comply with global criminal