USDA Farm Service extends benefits to aquaculture
By Muriel Hendrix
By Muriel Hendrix
The USDA Farm Service Agency has extended several farm loan and disaster assistance
programs to land and marine-based aquafarmers. Options are now available for aquafarmers to mitigate risk of loss through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and to obtain loans for working capital for operating needs, making improvements, purchasing equipment and constructing storage facilities.
The agency fact sheet explains that for a service fee, NAP coverage is available for the amount of loss that exceeds 50 percent of expected production, at 55 percent of the average market price for the crop. If a grower elects to pay a premium, additional coverage can be obtained for levels ranging from 50 to 65 percent of production, at 100 percent of the average market price. The loss must be due to a named event.
Direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans are available at varying repayment terms and interest rates. Don Todd, Director of the Maine FSA, says in the near future more extensive benefits will be available.
Sebastian Belle, Director of Maine Aquaculture Association, says several aquafarmers in his state have taken advantage of NAP and that loan opportunities will be helpful particularly to new farmers who sometimes have difficulty qualifying for traditional bank loans.
USDA support of aquaculture is not entirely new according to Don Todd – he recalls loans made to oyster farmers as early as 1978 – but the loan process was restrictive and rarely used. Four years ago, he approached the USDA program planners in Washington DC about opening more FSA programs to aquaculture. They were receptive and met with Belle, Maine Sea Grant Extension Associates Dana Morse and Sarah Redmond and several growers to learn what aquaculturists need and how to support the industry.
Belle, who with representatives from the National Aquaculture Association has lobbied for years to have all USDA programs for land farmers available for aquafarmers, looks forward to the time when full benefits are available, particularly for infrastructure and equipment like mussel sorting and grading machines that are specific to aquaculture operations.
— Muriel L. Hendrix