Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse announced in a press release on Wednesday morning that he has  joined Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to advocate for better insurance options for local shellfish farmers, which would give the aquaculture industry more certainty to expand and create jobs.  The senators outlined their request in a letter to the leaders of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, which is considering the 2018 farm bill (“Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018”) today.  Unlike many traditional crops, shellfish aquaculture has limited access to adequate insurance options.

“Shellfish farming is an important and growing industry in each of our states. …Demand for shellfish has continued to skyrocket, creating many opportunities for producers to expand operations and create jobs.  Supporting this growth and giving shellfish farmers the tools to expand is vital to the health of coastal economies and communities in our states,” wrote the senators.

The senators continued, “Despite the importance of this industry, current insurance options are inadequate and often hamstring farmers from expanding their operations.  Shellfish farmers are at a high risk of losing their crop because of weather events, diseases, and changes in the marine environment.  These risks amplify the need for farmers to have workable, affordable insurance options like those available to land farmers.”

Rhode Island’s aquaculture industry has grown dramatically over the past two decades, according to a press release from SenaWhitehouse’s office.  The state’s 73 shellfish farms sold more than 8.4 million oysters in 2017, according to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.  While oysters are the bulk of Rhode Island’s shellfish aquaculture production, local farms also grow clams, scallops, and mussels.

Full Text Of The Letter

Dear Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow,

 

We write today to urge you to amend Section 11122 of the committee draft of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 in order to allow the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to treat different growth stages of aquaculture species as separate crops. Proposed legislative language to address this issue is attached. In addition, we ask that you include the language below in the report accompanying the 2018 Farm Bill. These two changes both address the lack of viable insurance options for aquaculture farmers.

 

Shellfish farming is an important and growing industry in each of our states. In 2015, shellfish farmers produced 45 million pounds of oysters, clams and mussels with an estimated value of $295 million. Since then, demand for shellfish has continued to skyrocket, creating many opportunities for producers to expand operations and create jobs. Supporting this growth and giving shellfish farmers the tools to expand is vital to the health of coastal economies and communities in our states.

 

Despite the importance of this industry, current insurance options are inadequate and often hamstring farmers from expanding their operations. Shellfish farmers are at a high risk of losing their crop because of weather events, diseases, and changes in the marine environment. These risks amplify the need for farmers to have workable, affordable insurance options like those available to land farmers.

 

Thank you for your continued work to reauthorize the Farm Bill and support shellfish farmers. These two changes are vital the growth of the shellfish industry in our states and we believe the 2018 Farm Bill is only strengthened by their inclusion.

 

 

Sincerely,

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