The U.S. Department of Agriculture rolled out a program to provide assistance to offset losses fishermen and lobstermen saw over the last few years due to tariffs put in place as part of a trade war between the U.S. and China. Many Mainers were heavily affected.
The program, called the Seafood Trade Relief Program, provides cash relief to commercial fishermen. It is built on an earlier trade relief program which provided aid to farmers hurt by tariffs. Applications for the program opened Monday — here are the details on who is eligible and how to apply.
Who is eligible?
Commercial lobstermen and fishermen who catch more than a dozen species are eligible. Those species include: atka mackerel, flounder, geoduck, goosefish, herring, Pacific cod, Pacific Ocean perch, pollock, sablefish, salmon, sole, squid, tuna, turbot and several species of crab.
Not eligible for relief are supply-chain businesses, including wholesalers, processors and exporters. Members of Maine’s congressional delegation said they are pressing the federal government to change that following concern from industry leaders, but for now, those businesses cannot receive aid.
How much money is available?
The federal government allocated nearly $530 million for the program, but no individual or entity can receive more than $250,000. The payments are calculated based on each fisherman or lobsterman’s total 2019 haul in pounds, multiplied by a rate calculated by the Department of Agriculture to assess damages from trade. For lobster, that rate is 50 cents per pound.
How do you apply?
Fishermen and lobstermen can apply for aid by submitting an application through their local Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Service Center. There are a dozen locations in Maine, and you can look up the one closest to you on the department’s website. Most are offering limited in-person appointments right now. Applications can be submitted via email, fax, mail or in person, or by using the department’s secure online portal.
The application, which can be downloaded from the department’s website, requires basic personal information as well as information about the type of seafood and quantities harvested in 2019.
The initial form itself is one page, but applicants must be prepared to show evidence of their seafood production if requested by the department and must submit a few other forms within 60 days. One of those forms requires certification of an individual’s adjusted gross income, while another requires more identifying information, including an individual’s Social Security number or the business’s tax identification number.
Two additional forms, pertaining to income certification for high-earning entities and membership information for corporations and trusts, may be necessary for some fishermen depending on the structure of their business.
The window for applications opened Monday and closes Dec. 14. Additional information can be found on the Department of Agriculture’s website, and individuals seeking help with their application can also call 877-508-8364.