President Donald Trump hands pens out after signing an executive order on commercial fishing after speaking at a roundtable discussion with commercial fishermen at Bangor International Airport in Bangor, Maine, Friday, June 5, 2020. Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to act on aid that President Donald Trump said should go to the besieged lobster industry under language inserted in a spending bill by Rep. Chellie Pingree.

The Democrat from Maine’s 1st District championed an amendment to a budget bill for the 2021 fiscal year that passed the House Appropriations Committee in a voice vote on Thursday. It awaits approval by the Democratic-controlled House and would have to pass the Republican-led Senate.

It urges the USDA to act immediately on President Donald Trump’s June 24 surprise statement that he will extend aid to the lobster industry, which has been hard hit by trade issues and the pandemic. Since that memo, the USDA and the administration have been quiet about the proposal.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, stands on the shore of Eastern Egg Rock while on a trip to the first restored Atlantic puffin colony in the world in this August 2019 file photo. Credit: John Holyoke / BDN

The amendment directs USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue “to review the memorandum and prioritize appropriate assistance to the lobster industry.”

A spokesperson for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that the status of the Senate appropriations process is currently uncertain, but “the senator will submit a similar request.” 

The office of Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is “in contact with the Pingree office on this and in touch with Senate offices as we seek additional ways to exert pressure on this administration to follow through on their directive,” a spokesperson said.

Though the president’s non-binding memo encouraged the USDA “to provide assistance to fishermen and producers in the U.S. lobster industry that continue to be harmed by China’s retaliatory tariffs,” the agriculture secretary has yet to issue rule changes, according to Pingree.

Once passed by the House Appropriations Committee, the funding bill next goes to the House floor for a vote. A final agreement between the House and Senate must be reached by Sept. 30, 2020.

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Lori Valigra

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...