Stefanski seeks federal aid for crawfish farmers
July 30, 2020
To the Congressmen and Senators of Louisiana,
I write to you today to bring awareness to an issue that I feel has been largely overlooked. While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many different challenges to our health and economy, it has been devastating to the crawfish industry here in Louisiana. I have watched as the federal government has provided various types of assistance and stimulus money, but the traditional crawfish farmer has been largely left out.
The total value of the crawfish industry to the state of Louisiana is estimated to be more than $423 million in 2019. The industry also affects many areas of our economy outside of traditional farming such as wholesale, restaurants, and tourism. Crawfish farming is not only a significant economic driver for Southwest Louisiana, but it is also unique to Louisiana’s cultural identity. The response to limit the spread of COVID-19, both in Louisiana and throughout the United States, has caused significant disruptions to the normal operations of farmed crawfish through the various marketing channels. These events occurred at a time when production and supplies of crawfish traditionally reached its peak and when demand for crawfish was at its highest. Another impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is related to the H2A labor. H2A labor is typically contracted to work throughout the production season for a set time period. Due to the restrictions, crawfish producers were forced to pay labor hours without having the ability to generate revenue to cover the costs. Additionally these laborers were not allowed to be factored into the calculation for the Payroll Protection Program.
Simply put, the pandemic has been devastating to farmers in Louisiana. According to a study and survey conducted between the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, it is estimated that the COVID pandemic has resulted in a total economic impact to the farmed crawfish market of more than $146 million. That represents a 58 percent reduction in value for the 2019/20 production season.
It is my understanding that there could potentially be money made available to compensate the farmers for the losses they have sustained from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). I appreciate any work that has already been done and ask that you do everything in your power to secure these funds for our Louisiana small business owners. I also ask that you look for any other available resources to help these crawfish farmers as they struggle to stay afloat.
Farming is the lifeblood of the United States and I can think of no better cause to champion when you advocate for Louisiana. I grew up in Crowley, Louisiana, a place that has always been synonymous with rice farming and has earned the title as the Rice Capital of America. Times like this have pushed all of our farmers to the brink. Our farmers rely on the crawfish industry to survive, and now they are relying on you.
Thank you for your time and service to our country and our state. I am happy to assist in any way possible, so please do not hesitate to contact me.
John M. Stefanski