Senator John Kerry intends Massachusetts fishers would be elegible for Emergency Disaster Loans. (Photo: kerry.senate.gov/NOAA)
Senator proposes Farm Bill amendment to include fishers
Monday, June 18, 2012, 00:20 (GMT + 9)
Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) has proposed an amendment to the Agriculture Reform Food and Jobs Act of 2012 or the “Farm Bill” to make Massachusetts fishers eligible for Emergency Disaster Loans under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
“I want to see fishermen in Massachusetts given the same kind of help that farmers in the Midwest receive when times are tough. Fishing in Massachusetts means tens of thousands of jobs and our fishermen are literally the farmers of the ocean,” Kerry said.
He noted that even though the state possesses two of the largest ports in the US for the landing of fish, in Gloucester and New Bedford, fishers are having an increasingly rough time surviving.
“Fishermen across the nation risk their lives every day to put food on America’s kitchen table. I believe they are agriculture producers just like other farmers. They should be treated with the same respect as other farmers are being given in this legislation,” Kerry stated.
Kerry amendment #2187 would expand the Emergency Disaster Loan programme to include fishers. When a county has been declared a disaster area by either the President or the Secretary of Agriculture, agricultural producers in that county may become eligible for low-interest emergency disaster (EM) loans available through the USDA's Farm Service Agency.
These loan funds may be used to help eligible farmers, ranchers and aquaculture producers recover from production or physical losses.
Kerry listed some of the problems being faced by fishers, the latest of which he said came last fall when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a reversal in the most recent Gulf of Maine Cod assessment: between 2008 and 2011, two radically different stock assessments were released — the first showed a species on the rise while the most recent survey shows a dramatic drop in cod. NOAA is now undertaking a new survey for 2013 that could lead to a severe limit in fishing on the Gulf of Maine, and which could further jeopardise the livelihood of Massachusetts’s small boat fishers, according to Kerry.
The senator also noted that currently numerous fishing businesses in the state are operating at or below break-even points. Many fishers are trying to stay afloat by drawing on personal income or extended credit, shifting more fishing costs to crews, shrinking crew size or postponing the maintenance of their vessels.
Whitney Smith, Kerry's press secretary, pointed out that because there is no finite amount of money available to the loan programme, adding commercial fishers would not take funding away from other participants, South Coast Today reports.
“My amendment proposal would simply expand eligibility for the Emergency Disaster Loan programme to include commercial fishermen of fin fish and shellfish. It would allow fishermen, who are the farmers of the sea, to be eligible for low-interest emergency disaster loans available through the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency,” Kerry added.
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By Natalia Real