Support needed for seafood industry embroiled in China trade dispute

A letter to the Honorable Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dated June 11, 2019.

We appreciate and support the Administration’s long-term goal of rebalancing the trade environment and establishing free, fair, and reciprocal trade between our nation and its trading partners, especially China. In the short term, however, unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. seafood are disrupting trade and significantly damaging seafood producers across the country, especially in Alaska.

The assistance package announced by the Department of Agriculture on May 23, 2019, for food and agricultural goods affected by unjustified and retaliatory Chinese tariffs is important and needed now. This is as true for Alaska fisheries and seafood products as it is for other U.S. agricultural products. Including seafood in your agency’s latest trade relief package for agricultural producers is vital to Alaskan fishermen, our coastal communities, and our seafood processors who supply both foreign and domestic markets with premium, sustainably-harvested seafood.

Nationally, the Alaska seafood industry creates an estimated $5.2 billion in annual labor income and $12.8 billion in economic output (2017). Negative consequences of retaliatory tariffs on Alaska’s seafood have amplified throughout the supply and marketing chains, affecting Alaska coastal fishing communities and stakeholders at the local level.

China is the largest of Alaska’s seafood export markets, with about $989 million of sales (first wholesale value only to China), representing more than 50% of Alaska’s seafood products. As you know, China imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural imports – including seafood – effective early July 2018. China’s retaliatory actions are taking a heavy toll on Alaska seafood, and the consequences of this unjustified retaliation in terms of market and value loss are getting worse over time for seafood producers – just as they are for farmers and ranchers.

On July 6, China put in place an unjustified retaliatory tariff on American seafood imports, a 25% increase over an already burdensome 7-10% tariff level on certain Alaska origin products. This action drove the tariff on wild Alaska pollock, flatfish, and other Alaska seafood serving the Chinese domestic market as high as 32% while competing Russian products remained at a 7% tariff rate. Alaska (U.S.) origin pollock, salmon, cod, rockfish, and flatfish products are now subject to steep tariffs for entry to the Chinese domestic market. The impacts of this retaliation are severe and worsening as time passes.

As a strategy to keep markets from shifting to non-U.S. origin product, U.S. producers and their customers have absorbed costs of the initial tariff increase but this cannot be sustained in the long-term. Chinese markets are shifting from mainly U.S. product to Russian-origin salmon, pollock or other non-U.S. whitefish.

Concurrently, new market growth has stopped and Alaska seafood consumption has dropped. Marketing and sales outreach continue in order to minimize lost ground, but the Alaska seafood industry cannot effectively compete in the Chinese domestic market under current conditions. For Alaskan whitefish producers who depend primarily on China to sell their premium white fishmeal and oil products, there is no alternative premium market for the high volume of Alaska pollock fishmeal and oil that is being displaced.

In addition to being Alaska’s largest export market for seafood, China is also the largest re-processor of Alaska seafood. The majority of Alaska seafood shipped to China for reprocessing is filleted, de-boned, and made into new frozen products that are then moved back into the United States and around the world.

Products coming back to the United States are greatly affected by existing or proposed U.S. tariffs on goods imported from China. For reprocessed products, trade disruption and a shift in government priorities has left the Chinese reprocessing sector undercapitalized to purchase U.S. inventory. Lending has collapsed and the drop in processing capacity has significant long term implications for Alaska seafood to competitively access the China market.

Alaska seafood sales in the U.S. are also depressed due to trade tensions with China. As tariffs increase, prices paid to fishermen decrease and consumer product demand decreases. Valuable industry resources are being rerouted to identify and develop new markets for nearly a billion dollars of displaced China-bound product.

Russia and Southeast Asian countries are aggressively moving into the U.S. seafood marketplace to replace higher-value wild Alaska seafood products, which are losing their competitive edge due to the factors described above.

In total, this aggravates our nation’s seafood trade deficit by constraining export opportunities for domestic producers and Alaskan seafood harvesters.

Given the clear and significant impact of the current trade dispute on this broad range of Alaska fisheries and seafood producers, we strongly urge you to include Alaska fish and seafood products in the recently announced package of support for U.S. food commodities affected by unjustified retaliatory retaliation and trade disruption. This is critical for Alaska and its diverse fisheries. We are happy to work with your office to provide additional data, and look forward to your reply.

Dan Sullivan, U.S. Senator, Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator, Don Young, U.S. Congressman

A Letter to My Polish Father

On this Father’s Day I will share a letter I mailed to my father on his 85th birthday:

Dear Dad,

I am writing to you for two reasons. First, because I want to apologize for being unreceptive to your advice and second, because there are some things I want to say before you pass away from us.

I want you to know that no man has ever been blessed with such a loving and understanding father as you. You have taught me what is necessary to adhere to the principles of the faith and at the same time demonstrated (by example) what it is to maintain a strong and upstanding character even in the face of extreme adversity.

I think about you every day and am preparing myself for the day when you and I will be temporarily separated and you will be permanently reunited with all of our relatives.

I remember when we were at one of your birthday parties and somebody suggested that each of us write out (on your birthday card) a memory of a time that was important to us. One of my memories was when you used to bring us home from Busha’s house (never could spell it right) to the house in Parma Heights and I would fight with Tweety to stop you from driving away because you’re leaving us would cause me a lot of sadness. Knowing the fact that you may be leaving soon brings back memories of that sadness.

You said to me afterward that when you used to leave us, your heart would ache with sadness. My heart will ache with sadness everyday that you are not here because one of the very few people who truly cared about me will be gone. I love you Dad and I am sorry for all the times I caused you grief and anxiety like the times when you used to stop at Dairy Dell and I would throw a tantrum just to get you to buy me a stupid comic book.

I am sorry for any contempt that I may have had for you especially at times when you were trying to help me; like the time over at Busy Bee when I said things to you and the owner’s son that no fool in their right mind should ever think, never mind say.

I am sorry for the times when you got yourself hurt trying to help me and I did nothing to help you like the time at that service station when the clerk caused you to panic and trip over that bar in the garage and you shattered your knee. I should have rushed to your side when you called me but instead you had to drive yourself to the hospital.

If anything ever happens to you or anybody else in this family, I will beat down the Great Wall of China to help them. I am also sorry for not powdering your toes that you could not reach because of your knee.

Before Jim Bonkowski died, he apologetically asked me to put his socks on because his feet were so swollen and he pulled a back muscle; I told him I would gladly do it because it was God’s way of giving me a second chance to do something I had failed to do before.

There are so many other things that I am sorry for but either I cannot remember all of them or it is getting too difficult to type while I weep.

There are some things I would like to thank you for as well. First and foremost, for being my dad who always looked out for me and made phone calls on my behalf whether it be while I was at work or looking for work.

I remember when I used to work nights at Coca-Cola and sometimes we would have to work straight through the night and you would call to see where I was. I remember feeling embarrassed that my father would call looking for me but the dispatcher told me that some guys don’t have a father who cares enough to look out for them.

Thank you for staying in a marriage that has been difficult for you and Mom. A former professor of mine once said to the class that anybody who can survive marriage ought to be canonized. You both have done very well in upholding your vow before God. You both have also

done very well in raising us the best way you could as there has yet to be a perfect way of raising children.

I now realize that there comes a point when each of us (supported by our family) needs to take responsibility for our lives and play the cards we are dealt. Thank you for supporting me the best way you knew how. Thank you for feeding, clothing and sheltering me especially the time you came home from work and had to put the storm windows up in the middle of a driving rainstorm.

I remember feeling sad watching the mud drip from your shoes as you struggled to put them up.

Thank you for declining the contract offer from the Cleveland Indians because Dziadzia advised you not to play baseball on Sunday. The Territorial Scout position {business card to prove it} was obviously unfulfilling so you chose to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. I have your Army picture in front of me and am always struck by how handsome and dignified you are. You are a man’s man.

Well, the Kleenex box is about empty and my eyes are not drying so perhaps it would be wise to end this letter. Always remember Dad that I love you very much and will miss you even more. As Patton said about his father, you are and always will be my darling papa.

Love, Joe (Your Half-Polish Son)

Walter Joseph Bialek celebrated his 85th birthday on January 6, 2003 and passed away on September 3, 2009.

Joe Bialek, Cleveland, Ohio

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