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K Street Files: Hurting Gulf Seafood Industry Wants U.S. to Buy In

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Last summer’s BP oil disaster struck just as the fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico was beginning to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Now, nobody wants the seafood.

Gulf Coast officials were in Washington, D.C., this week, pitching the Pentagon on a plan to sell local seafood to the armed forces and other federal programs as a way to help their depressed region.

No one else is similarly situated as us, Mobile, Ala., Mayor Samuel Jones told Roll Call on Monday. No one else came right off [Hurricane] Katrina to the oil spill.

Jones lobbied lawmakers and U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Monday to direct more federal spending to his municipality. He was joined by other members of the Ready 4 Takeoff Coalition, including Pensacola, Fla., Mayor-elect Ashton Hayward and Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board Executive Director Ewell Smith.

According to its website, the groups primary goals are to prod the federal government to buy Gulf Coast seafood that consumers may be wary to purchase since an April 20 accident dumped more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The coalition is also pushing a tanker project and the acceleration of revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas development, its website states.

The coalition agrees that public opinion poses a big problem for their regions redevelopment efforts. Images of oil-soaked birds and tar-ball-laden beaches means canceled hotel rooms and scuttled convention plans. They also claim that dramatic media accounts of the Gulf region is wreaking havoc on a local fishing industry that continues to operate at half of its pre-spill capacity.

The biggest problems we have is perception and getting our people back to work, Smith said. People question if the food is safe? Its the most tested food source in the world.

Korea FTA Touches Down

Industry backers of a new trade proposal with South Korea are saying the deal could be in place by the spring.

President Barack Obama announced Friday that his administration had reached an agreement to move forward on a bilateral free trade agreement with the strategic Asian ally. The White House and other proponents claim the deal will create thousands of jobs and $11 billion in new revenue for domestic manufacturers. 

After terms of the deal surfaced Friday, the White House released a series of statements from a broad coalition of supporters on K Street and Capitol Hill, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.), House Ways and Means ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.), AT&T Inc., Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Meat Institute, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Motion Picture Association of America, American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and National Pork Producers Council.

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