Friday, September 23, 2011

Is Help on the Way for Long Island Sound's Oyster Growers?

Following the back and forth the other day over the question of whether Connecticut's oyster growers are eligible for federal disaster aid for the damages they suffered because of Hurricane Irene, Brendan Smith of the Thimble Island Oyster Co. took to Twitter to explain what he knows and to propose an obvious solution, of not for now than for the future.

Here’s his thread. I added the words within the brackets to clarify his 140-character tweets:

[The issue is] bottom vs off-bottom growing. [I’ve been] told by farm bureau if the shellfish sit on the sea floor at any point, [it’s] not farming [according to] fed law

but if shellfish are grown in cages and/or suspended gear for their entire life cycle, then it's defined as farming.

[Regarding the unavailability of federal disaster aid, it’s] Fine if the answer is clear from the Feds, but i was told this was debated before and off-bottom was [defined] as "farming"

CT is another matter for historical reasons, deeming everyone farmers. Big q will be if farm bureau has it right or not...

{Representative Coutrney’s office,] call CT Farm Bureau. they say this been hashed out before, [they are] very knowledgeable about history of debate at USDA.

And if answer is still "no" from USDA - let's change the law! from every aspect I farm, [I] don't fish

Then in today's New London Day, there's a story about the Noank Oyster Cooperative, which has finally been allowed to sell oysters again. The Day reports that Connecticut's delegation in Washington is indeed trying to change the law to make shellfish growers eligible for disaster aid:

David Carey, head of the Aquaculture Division, said Thursday that some shellfish beds in Fairfield County and other parts of the state are still closed.

"Our goal is to get everything open as soon as we can," he said. "But we had a bunch of conditions we're not used to having."

His office, along with Connecticut SeaGrant, has been working on trying to obtain some assistance for the state's shellfishermen to help with their losses, he said.

On Thursday, an announcement came from the state's Senate delegation signaling that it may be easier to obtain help for the state's shellfishermen for future storm losses.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, both Democrats, introduced the Shellfish Equity Act. It would add shellfish to the list of crops eligible to be covered by disaster relief programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under current rules, they are not eligible.

The state's shellfish industry supports an estimated 300 jobs and generates $30 million in sales annually, Blumenthal's office said in a news release.

"Our shellfish industry - severely damaged by Irene - deserves and needs the assistance that all other farmers receive, so they can recover and rebuild," Blumenthal said. "This measure would treat shellfish farmers on par with other agriculture producers, and ensure that they have the same eligibility for emergency aid."

Lieberman noted that the state's shellfishing industry has long played an important part in the state's economy.

"It is heartbreaking that their crops were hit so hard by Hurricane Irene," he said. "We will work with our colleagues to enact this legislation as soon as possible."

If approved, shellfishermen would become eligible for two USDA disaster relief programs, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees & Farm-raised Fish program.



Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker