So much good news it feels like Christmas!
Many of our efforts are starting to bear fruit and it gives me great pleasure to highlight a few year-end success stories:
The House and Senate have passed the Farm Bill so it now goes to the President for signing (probably today or Friday). Contained in the bill is an amendment we have been working on for years that should greatly improve the crop insurance options for aquaculture producers. Thanks to the efforts of our lobbyist Matt Mullin and strong support from the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association and the National Aquaculture Association, along with the help of Sen. Gillibrand’s and Rep. Rouser’s staff, we were able to pass an amendment directing the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to hold listening sessions with growers to find ways to improve the Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program to make it workable for aquaculture producers. The Farm Bill directs the RMA to reduce paperwork burdens and develop appropriate ways to document plantings. Existing crop insurance policies for aquaculture are totally inadequate. The Farm Service Agency’s Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance program is inexpensive, but barely worth it. It is an inventory-based policy, which is challenging for producers with submerged farms. The WFRP is a revenue-based program that should be fraud resistant and easier to administer for shellfish farmers.
Also contained in the Farm Bill is $40M a year for genomic research on livestock, poultry and aquaculture species. Kudos to all those who worked to get this done, and special thanks the the National Aquaculture Association for raising this issue for us in states that have no saltwater.
I was also pleased to see that association membership has taken a big leap this year! We have been growing membership by about 20 members a year for almost a decade, but this year we have over 80 new members! Almost a third of growers made a separate donation to our Political Action Fund. We must be doing something right. Our ability to fight for grower priorities is directly proportional to our budget, so it is refreshing to see this level of support. Your support is more important now than ever, as we still have lots of work to do. We will continue to push for our Shellfish Aquaculture Improvement Act in 2019; our efforts to support legal, regulatory and research efforts do not come cheap.
EU Trade resumes soon. After nine long years of pushing, the European Union finally reached an agreement with the FDA to allow resumption of cross-Atlantic trade in shellfish! Initially only two states (Massachusetts and Washington) will be allowed to send shellfish to the EU, but we have assurances that other states will be added using an expedited process. It is not perfect, but is a good first step. I am very gratified we have finally gotten that rock to the top of the hill!
I am excited to announce that we are working with Beth Walton to improve our social media presence. I confess that I have not been very good at this part of my job, but with Beth’s help we hope to become the go-to portal for shellfish farmers as well as shellfish lovers. Follow @ecsga on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We would love to have members film a short 30-90 second video describing their farm and what they do. We have great stories to tell, so shoot a little video and let us help you tell it!
Members’ newsletters should arrive in their mailboxes in time for the holiday. If you don’t receive one inside a complimentary copy of Fish Farming News, please let me know. Or read it online!
Plans are underway for our annual Walk the Hill trip in DC. If you have an interest in joining us please let me know.
Have a great holiday!
Bob Rheault, Executive Director