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Public Statements

Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. TIERNEY. Mr. Chairman, right now, fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts--which is in my district--and across the country are facing dire circumstances. There have been devastating cuts to the allowable catch of a number of crucial stocks; for instance, a 78 percent cut in Gulf of Maine cod, a 61 percent cut to Georges Bank cod. Consequently, some of these fishermen already have been forced to sell their boats and their permits, while others feel that they will soon be out of business.

Many of my Massachusetts colleagues and I have been doing everything we can to help these fishermen and their families. We've offered amendments to last year's disaster relief appropriations bill for those fishermen in Massachusetts and the several other States that were officially declared fisheries disasters by the Department of Commerce, but to no avail.

I filed legislation to redirect a portion of the tariffs that the United States collects on imported fish to provide urgently needed financial assistance for our fishermen, but that matter has yet to come up.

A number of us are working to responsibly reform the underlying Federal statute--the Magnuson-Stevens Act--that governs our Nation's fisheries so the law is more flexible and fairer toward our fishermen, but of course that is somewhere down the road.

I don't think we can stop there, and that's why I--along with Mr. Markey, Mr. Lynch, Mr. Keating, Mr. Tim Bishop and Ms. Shea-Porter--am offering this amendment today to ensure our fishermen have access to the USDA's emergency disaster loan program.

We're essentially doing away with an inequity in the law that denies fishermen the ability to apply through the normal procedures for a loan under Federal emergency standards. A similar provision was included in the Senate-approved farm bill, and our work to provide financial relief to our fishermen and reform the law will certainly continue in the weeks and months ahead. But in the meantime, this is a small and important step that's intended to help those in our local community who are struggling.

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Mr. TIERNEY. Mr. Chairman, we are basically trying to settle an inequity here where the loans that are available to the fishermen of course are at 3 percent or 4 percent, not the 2.25 percent. That would make a substantial difference to them if they were there. And we're not giving them any preference over anybody else, they would just get the equitable right to apply for and seek those loans.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. TIERNEY. I just reiterate what I said earlier, Mr. Chairman. These people are in dire straits. There has been nothing that we've been able to do. Even though they've been declared eligible for disaster relief, this Congress has yet to afford them any of that relief.

The fleets are shrinking. They are going out of business. They have all sorts of debt and problems with their gear and their property on that. They need the access to this low-interest loan at 2.25 percent. It gives them no more preference than anybody else on this, and it makes available to them a much needed supply. It is passed, it's in the Senate version. The Senate version score showed there was no increase in the scoring on that.

I would hope that my colleagues would have some compassion for the fishing industry as they do for others in this country that are in this type of situation.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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