Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) today introduced the Shellfish Marketing Assistance Fairness Act. The legislation would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide direct and professional marketing assistance to farmed shellfish growers in New York, Connecticut and across the country.
The bill would provide shellfish producers the ability to access USDA's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and The Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The Block Grant program allows producers of specialty crops to access funding in order to enhance the competitiveness of their products. The Research Initiative provides funding opportunities to answer critical industry questions through research and extension activities. Prior to the passage of the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 shellfish were classified as a specialty crop. This legislation returns shellfish to their rightful agricultural classification.
"It is imperative that New York's shellfish producers work on a fair playing field and access critical resources in order to compete with large-scale operations," said Senator Gillibrand. "Equipping our shellfish farmers with necessary tools will go a long way towards marketing their products and successfully growing their businesses."
"Year in and year out, Connecticut oyster farmers grow world-class product," said Congressman Courtney. "Unfortunately, many consumers even right here in our state, still don't associate oysters with Connecticut. My hope is that with this legislation, that will change. By making shellfish farmers eligible for the same marketing assistance available to farmers of other crops across the country, our farmers will not only sell more locally-grown product, but they will be able to grow their small businesses as a result."
The legislation has the support of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, and Gulf Coast Shellfish Growers Association.