The American Soybean Association (ASA), as an active member of the Soy Aquaculture Alliance (SAA), coordinated and participated in a series of meetings to promote domestic marine aquaculture in Washington this week.The finalization of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Plan, which would create a permitting system for aquaculture production in the Gulf, is a top priority for soybean farmers. The final rule is pending release and still awaiting approval at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). ASA submitted comments on the Plan in October of 2014, stating, “We see it as the first step to finally building a commercial offshore aquaculture industry in the United States.”The SAA delegation met with top NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) officials, as well as staff from USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). They also talked to representatives of aquaculture companies with staff in Washington.Attending this week for SAA were Bridget Owen, the new executive director, and Bill Bayliss, SAA vice-chair and farmer from Ohio.Aquaculture is the fastest growing form of food production in the world, and most of this growth is offshore and overseas. Seafood imports are the second biggest contributor to the U.S. trade deficit — almost $9 billion per year. Major aquaculture-exporting nations include China, India, and Vietnam.The soybean industry is the largest provider of protein for aquaculture applications, and ASA supports research on plant-based feeds to position soy as the economically viable and environmentally friendlier alternative to fish meal and fish oil.ASA looks forward to the release of the Gulf plan and the long-awaited investment in a domestic marine aquaculture industry.