August 2, 2018

Senate Approves Bipartisan Whitehouse Amendment to Encourage Kelp Farming

Emerging ocean industries like kelp farming may hold promise for growth in RI

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today announced that the Senate has passed a bipartisan amendment designed to help encourage growth and job creation in the emerging kelp farming industry. 

“Kelp is good for human health and good for our environment and oceans,” said Whitehouse.  “Our bipartisan amendment will help the promising ocean-grown kelp industry, which is just getting started in Rhode Island.”

Whitehouse’s amendment, which was cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct research and pilot programs to support emerging farming practices and other scalable commercial applications for these crops.  The amendment also directs the agencies to study the capability of kelp and seagrass to remove excess carbon dioxide from seawater.  It passed the Senate this week as part of a larger appropriations bill.  The Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill must now be reconciled with the version that the House passes before going to the president.

Kelp and seagrass are nutritious food sources for human consumption and can also be used as feedstock for other agriculture and aquaculture operations.  The plants provide ancillary benefits to the coastal ecosystems in which they’re grown by absorbing carbon that would otherwise contribute to ocean acidification. 

“The kelp and seaweed industry can provide a source of protein for both humans and agriculture, help improve the health of our coastal environment and provide jobs,” said Capt. David Blaney, MMS, of Point Judith Kelp Company.  “It is important to remember this type of agriculture requires no fresh water or chemical fertilizer input.”

In 2016, Rhode Island agencies approved permits for Point Judith Kelp Company, the state’s first dedicated kelp farm.  Kelp products made in Rhode Island include fresh seaweed for direct consumption, cosmetics, and plant food. 

Whitehouse and Murkowski are co-founders and co-chairs of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus, which is developing solutions to challenges facing the oceans and coasts.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921