June 30, 2018

Farm Bill Passes Senate with Whitehouse Provision to Support Aquaculture

Improved insurance options will prime aquaculture industry for further growth, job creation

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 evening.

“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 oysters.

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 climate change.
  • Whitehouse’s legislation to extend permanently vital foreclosure protection for servicemembers, veterans, and their families.
  • $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 investigations.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921