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Proposed Legislation Would Offer Help To Shellfish Farmers

U.S. Rep. Joseph Courney Visits Noank To Push Marketing Assistance Act

U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney met with state officials and shellfish farmers in Noank Thursday to promote legislation that would allow shellfish growers to apply for grants to market their products.

A law passed in 2004 provides grants to help market specialty crops, but excludes shellfish farmers.

The proposed legislation, called the Shellfish Marketing Assistance Fairness Act, would add the farmers to the list so they can compete with growers of other crops such as vegetables, fruits and nursery plants.

“This bill will help us tremendously,” said Karen Rivara, secretary of the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative, which has ten members who raise mostly oysters. “It’s hard for us to have the money to market our product.”

Connecticut has received about $1.2 million through the marketing program since 2006, and expects to receive another $400,000 this summer, said Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky. The goal is to further an industry as a whole, rather than benefit individual farmers, he said.

Courtney said the bill would not cost additional money, but would divide what is available more fairly.

“It is not about creating new spending. It just means there is going to be a new allocation of how the funding is shared,” he said.

Grants of $75,000 per project are available on a competitive basis, and are geared toward associations and cooperatives.

Steve Plant, an oyster farmer and member of the Noank cooperative, said about six oysters farmers in Groton produce about 500,000 to 600,000 oysters per year.  He said money from the grant program could be used to educate the public.

 “A lot of this money I think could go toward educating consumers about the quality of the product and the environmental benefit,” he said.

Every adult oyster filters 20 liters of water a day, removing algae from the water, an environmental issue in Long Island Sound. Plant said there is also a misconception that eating raw shellfish is riskier than eating cooked chicken, for instance. He said this is not the case.

Groton’s Shellfish Commission Chairman Ed Martin said recreational shell fishing is also a significant activity in town.  The commission sells 2,000 shellfish permits per year.

Groups including the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, CT Seafood Council, and U-Conn Sea Grant support the proposed legislation. Courtney said he wants the shellfish industry to have more of a voice in future farming laws.

“People really feel that this is an industry that deserves a place at the table in making sure it’s promoted,” he said.

Kenneth Shear March 24, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Hi Love your site. Sorry missed deadline for posting re Bill which sent half hour after article. Look forward to reading more on your site. Ken
voter March 25, 2011 at 11:51 AM
Nice to see Joe out rubbing elbows with the little peopel and pass out more 'free money'. Where does the grant money come from...oh yeah the tax payers. Nice of Joe and his friends (Ds and Rs) in DC to take our money and then give it back to us - of course in exchange for your vote. Yet if you support the working families partry, like Joe, perhaps there are other reasons like an open society that voters support Joe. Thanks Comrade Joe.
Juli Mancini May 31, 2011 at 11:49 AM
Farming of any kinds does not yield a high profit yet is necessary to sustain the population. More and more farmers rely on government subsistence to produce food for the public. Allocation of these funds to support the shellfish industry is necessary for our well being and utilization of our coastal resources.
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