USA - Public Comment Period Open for USDA AFRI Funding Priorities

Encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make critical research, education, and extension investments in aquaculture [the American Fisheries Society Fish Culture Section (FCS)announcement].
March 1, 2012

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is requesting public comments to help in establishing funding priorities to improve the quality of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI is one of the primary mechanisms by which the USDA supports essential research, education, and extension efforts to address all components of agriculture, including aquaculture.

In this comment period, we have an opportunity to help harness the power of the USDA to grow domestic aquaculture, and this is a significant force. Remember that prior to USDA investment in the National Poultry Improvement Program in the 1930s, chicken was considered a luxury food item; some 20 years later, the modern broiler industry was putting a chicken in every pot. This is an opportunity for aquaculturists and those working in allied fields to have our voice heard, and to provide comments that may yield to greater investment and advancement in this critical component of U.S. food security. Although these efforts are primarily directed at the development and improvement of commercial, food-fish aquaculture, it is important to remember that advances made in the private sector (e.g., improved disease management strategies, more cost-effective feeds, improved breeding programs) also benefit all forms of aquaculture, including fish culture in the public sector.

This announcement is being distributed by the American Fisheries Society Fish Culture Section (FCS), which is committed to advancing cultivation technology of aquatic organisms for food, enhancing commercial and recreational fisheries, as ornamental species, and aquatic resources conservation. To this end, the leadership of the FCS has compiled a series of facts and talking points to consider in developing comments to be submitted to the USDA. The following talking points can be modified or used directly by any individuals or groups in providing their own comments to USDA.

Please join us in providing USDA with feedback underscoring the importance of aquaculture and USDA investment in the future of the U.S. industry. There are several ways to submit your comments to USDA:

Go Online: Visit the Federal eRulemaking Portal,, search for keyword NIFA-2012-0004, and follow the instructions for submitting comments.

By Email: Email your comments to, including NIFA-2012-0004 in the subject line of the message.

By Fax: Fax your comments to (202) 401-6488, including NIFA-2012-0004 on the RE line, or elsewhere in the message.

By Mail: Paper, disk or CD-ROM submissions can be sent to AFRI; Institute of Food Production and Sustainability (IFPS), National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, STOP 2220, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-2220.

Please note that ALL submissions must include the agency name (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and reference to this request for public comment (NIFA-2012-0004). All comments must be received by 5 PM EST on March 22, 2012.

For more information about the request for public comment and providing your feedback to USDA, please see the federal register notice at:

Provide USDA with your comments by March 22, 2012


Fisheries and aquaculture on the global scale1

Together, fisheries and aquaculture provide the world with ~142 million metric tons of fish every year.

Worldwide, seafood provides more than 1.5 billion people with almost 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein.

Though global aquaculture production was less than 1 million metric tons in the 1950s, culturists now produce over 50 million metric tons per year, at a value of nearly US$100 billion; however, a vast majority of this growth is occurring outside the United States

The number of fish stocks currently identified as overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion is the highest recorded to-date.

Seafood consumers, particularly in more prosperous regions, are increasingly demanding that seafood be guaranteed as sustainably harvested or raised.

Aquaculture and seafood demand in the United States2

The United States is a major consumer of aquaculture products, importing 84% of all the seafood we consume, about half of which is farm-raised.

The domestic aquaculture industry only supplied about 5% of domestic demand, and only 1.5% of domestic demand for marine species consumed in the United States.

Despite meager contributions of our domestic aquaculture industry, UNITED STATES demand for seafood continues to grow: the U.S. seafood trade deficit is currently at a record high of US$9 billion per year.

Many other countries are investing more heavily in aquaculture than the United States. As a result, we are a distant 13th in global aquaculture production.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Investment in Aquaculture3

Total R & D funding= $654 million

Total Aquaculture R & D funding: $17.6 million

Aquaculture = 2.7% of research investments

Current USDA investments in aquaculture appear to be falling behind growing demand and opportunities in developing the U.S. aquaculture industry. Whereas mature, terrestrial livestock industries have well-established management practices for virtually every aspect of production, the U.S. aquaculture industry currently struggles with¡K

Dramatically increasing feed costs and large gaps in our understanding of nutrient requirements and optimal feeding of most fishes.

Ineffective disease management strategies, associated with limited access to safe and effective therapeutants.

Limited investment of resources in targeted breeding efforts.

An unclear and uncertain regulatory environment, particularly with respect to marine aquaculture.

Inaccurate and ineffective public education and media coverage of industry and the importance of seafood to domestic and global food security.

Relatively limited agribusiness interest and investment in the U.S. industry, given greater opportunities overseas.

Take this opportunity to encourage USDA to invest in aquaculture.