Aquaculture — the business of farming aquatic plants and animals — is the fastest growing segment of U.S. agriculture. Aquaculture is based on sustained production of renewable resources, promotes a healthy environment and provides an economically viable form of agriculture. As phenomenal as the growth of aquaculture has been over the past three decades, there remains significant constraints to realizing its full potential as a major force in American agriculture.
NASDA believes aquaculture should be considered a form of agriculture in the broadest sense and aquaculture products should be viewed and treated as agricultural commodities. This means that the aquaculture industry should have access to USDA financing, crop insurance, soil and water conservation, commodity grading and other marketing services and be subject to USDA’s inspection and regulatory requirements comparable to those currently applicable to meat and poultry. Development of the aquaculture industry would be enhanced if the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) leadership role in aquaculture was reaffirmed. Furthermore, we encourage USDA to work with other federal agencies including established Sea Grant and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) programs in the Department of Commerce and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) programs within the Department of the Interior in order to enhance the role of the aquaculture industry in agriculture.
NASDA believes regulatory constraints imposed upon the aquaculture industry should be clarified, streamlined, and consolidated. The treatment of aquaculture as a form of agriculture by local, state and federal regulatory agencies should enhance development of the industry from a regulatory standpoint and provide a positive climate for development. Water Quality standards and regulation need to be based on science and reasonable risk assessment procedures. The US Environmental Protection Agency should rely strongly on the expertise within USDA and the aquaculture organizations in evaluating new technologies and best management practices for aquaculture, which can be utilized to improve water quality.
We believe the development of sound marketing strategies is crucial to the orderly and progressive development of the U.S. aquaculture industry. The research, extension and market development infrastructure utilized for other agricultural commodities has not adequately addressed opportunities for aquaculture. There is a need for collaborative research and education (with industry participation) to better identify consumption trends, market structure, market access, market elasticity, regional preferences, product form and demand equations from a regional, national, and international perspective. The opportunity for new international markets and the rise in competition from abroad increases the need for continued and expanded evaluation of foreign markets, trade constraints and markets potentials.
Further, there is a need for improved crop and marketing reports and a better definition of market relationships among domestic and foreign aquaculture products and traditional fisheries products. We support strong marketing education of producers and processors as well as consumers such as home processing, preparation and the nutritional quality of aquaculture products.
NASDA urges the Office of Management and Budget to approve USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service funding for an annual aquaculture census which would provide statistics on the number of aquaculture farms, number of units sold, total sales, and average price per unit for most species for places which have or normally have $1,000 or more in agricultural sales. The census would provide data for the major species under the following categories: food fish, baitfish, ornamental fish, sport or game fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Aggregated information for other fish and aquaculture products would also be published. Estimates would be published for each of the 50 states and the United States, except where prohibited by confidentiality laws. The estimated cost of conducting a census of this scope is $213,240 per year. The first annual census would update the information published in the 1998 Census of Aquaculture. This is the only source of aquaculture information for all 50 states and the United States.
NASDA believes the development of improved processing technologies and new products development represent important opportunities for the aquaculture industry. New value -added products can contribute to both domestic and export markets. NASDA endorses the HACCP principles for aquaculture processing and encourages USDA and FDA to provide on-going training for the industry that is both cost effective and focused. Adoption of uniform quality standards throughout the aquaculture industry and assurance of product safety and high quality could assure a competitive edge for aquaculture products over the traditional capture fisheries or imported aquaculture products.
NASDA believes the process of development of minimum health standards by USDA should be with the direct involvement of the major aquaculture organizations, insuring coverage of all species groups and uses for the interstate and international movement of aquatic animals and plants. This is critical to the continued viability and growth of the aquaculture industry, domestically and abroad. The recognition of these standards will facilitate the movement of aquaculture products in commerce and protect the industry from losses due to disease outbreaks and adverse public opinion. Further, there is need for the development of rapid, non-lethal sampling and testing techniques for the diagnosis of aquatic diseases as well as state and national surveillance systems to identify disease early in its course. Regulatory constraints utilizing new identification methods and testing protocols should have nationally accepted validation and interpretation prior to adoption.
The development of the U.S. aquaculture industry is severely constrained by a lack of federally approved chemicals, vaccines, and therapeutic compounds that could contribute to increased production efficiency and offset annual losses of millions of dollars to disease and parasites. The process of certifying shipments of live fish and aquaculture products for export needs to be streamlined in the areas of jurisdiction as well as the use of therapeutants and disease free status. There is opportunity to facilitate the process of clearance and approval of desirable and safe therapeutants through research to provide necessary information, through improved communications among government agencies and the industry, and through increased understanding of the aquaculture industry by regulatory agencies. We encourage the enhancement of the role of the National Research Support Program - 7 (NRSP-7), formerly IR-4 Program, in order to provide further assistance to aquaculture for development of minor use drugs.