Alaska Congress members ask to tap relief funds for seafood

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska's congressional delegation said the state's fishermen and seafood processors should be included in a federal trade war relief package, a report said.

Lawmakers asked the Trump administration to give its seafood industry access to $15 billion earmarked for farmers, The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.

"Unjustified retaliatory" tariffs are eroding Alaska seafood's market share in China, U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young said in a June 11 letter.

The delegation wants Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to include Alaska seafood in the recent federal support package for U.S. agricultural products affected by the ongoing Chinese trade war.

"New market growth has stopped and Alaska seafood consumption has dropped," the legislators wrote to Perdue.

China's 25% tariff on Alaska salmon, pollock, cod and other fish implemented in July boosts the overall tariff to 32% on some fish species, they said.

Before the trade war began, China bought about $1 billion per year in seafood, the state's largest private-sector employer.

The industry lost about $100 million of sales in China over the last six months, said Jeremy Woodrow, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute executive director.

"That's a big number, and a lot of this hasn't played out yet," he said.

A $5.5 million federal grant under a previous aid package benefiting farmers hurt by tariffs allowed the institute to open new markets in Asian countries outside China and in South America, Woodrow said.

"It took us about 20 years to build the Chinese market," Woodrow said. "It will take time to move away from that market and diversify our international portfolio."

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com