USDA to bailout some canned sockeye surplus

Photo: Clark Fair via kdlg.org.
Photo: Clark Fair via kdlg.org.

There’s some good news this week about that often spoken of glut of canned sockeye salmon: the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday it intends to purchase up to $30 million worth and put it into food banks and other emergency assistance programs.

Last week Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking him to approve the purchase, which she said would alleviate a surplus inventory and put a nutritious product in food programs around the country.

In her letter Murkowski noted that this year and last year’s very high harvests of sockeye in Alaska were actually harming the livelihood of many fishermen and the industry. That should come as no surprise to Bristol Bay fishermen, some of whom went home with a base price of .50 cents a pound for their catch this season.

Last year the USDA helped clear some inventory of canned pink salmon, agreeing to buy $13 million of product for similar food programs. Then-governor Sean Parnell had asked the Department to buy up to $37 million of canned pinks, which many companies said were stacked floor-to-ceiling in warehouses and not moving anywhere.

The USDA did not offer many other details, other than that it will solicit bids in the near future. Tuesday’s announcement was well received by the Food Bank of Alaska.