Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $92.2 million in competitive grant funding through the 2018 Farm Bill’s Local Agriculture Market Program as part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative.
The Local Agriculture Market Program includes $77 million for the Farmers Market Promotion Program and Local Food Promotion Program. What does this mean for the fishing industry? Both grant programs are open to seafood businesses, tribes, NGOs, and fishing associations who are involved in local, regional, and direct seafood marketing and distribution. This injection of funding represents a major opportunity to strengthen the resilience of our nation’s food system and put domestic seafood on our country’s menu in a meaningful way.
The United States is a major producer of seafood. However, an estimated 71 to 90 percent of the seafood we consume is imported. Our reliance on seafood trade makes our seafood economy vulnerable to socioeconomic, political and environmental shocks. No more apparent has this been than during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. According to NOAA Fisheries, landings were down by an astonishing 29 percent during the first seven months of the pandemic in the United States. This affects everyone from the fishing crews to captains, dealers, processors, and shoreside communities.
Strengthening our local and regional seafood systems will not eliminate all vulnerabilities in the seafood sector, but it can be part of the solution by helping to diversify supply chains. Local and direct seafood sales have been a bright spot during the pandemic. Grant funding that supports the development of local and regional seafood systems will only help to ensure our seafood economy and coastal communities are less affected by future shocks.
Learn more about USDA funding opportunities through LAMP or to apply.
For the next six weeks, the Local Catch Network will be hosting outreach events and providing technical assistance to small-scale harvesters and community-based organizations interested in applying for funding.
Stay connected with Local Catch Network to learn about upcoming technical assistance opportunities by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin.
Joshua Stoll is assistant professor of Marine Policy at the University of Maine and co-founder of the Local Catch Network. FMI: www.localcatch.org.
Jordan Richardson is the Local Catch Network coordinator at the University of Maine and has been working in food systems for nearly a decade.