By Drew Walker, Louisiana Sea Grant
With the assistance of Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG), shrimpers from the state received more than $18 million in direct financial assistance over the past three years through the federal Trade Assistance Adjustment (TAA) program.
Shrimp is the most valuable seafood commodity in the Gulf of Mexico, and Louisiana leads the nation in shrimp vessels and annual shrimp landings. Despite its dominance as a seafood commodity, the domestic shrimp industry has been plagued for decades by static and declining prices, increasing global competition, rising input costs and an ever-changing suite of state and federal regulations. Credit: Louisiana Sea Grant
TAA began as a way to help farmers combat falling market prices for their products as a result of increased foreign imports. It was later expanded to include aquaculturists and commercial fishermen. Since 2010, more than 2,170 Louisiana shrimpers applied for the program, which provided up to $12,000 per person in cash benefits.
In order to receive TAA funding, applicants were required to complete an initial orientation, followed by 12 hours of intensive technical training and to then produce an initial business plan. If an applicant completed the first three steps, he or she was eligible to receive up to $4,000. To earn the remaining $8,000, shrimpers were required to develop a long-term business plan that would help assure the viability of their business.
“The training was focused on helping shrimpers become more competitive in a global market by increasing their efficiency, technical and marketing skills, and knowledge of the best practices for quality assurance,” said Rex Caffey, LSG and Louisiana State University AgCenter Marine Extension leader. Caffey and other LSG Extension agents helped develop and coordinate the TAA classes. “We held more than 125 meetings over a two- year period,” Caffey said.
"We are seeing fishermen implement things that they learned in the training. The program has made an impact on the way they do business and provided them with the tools to make important decisions to advance their business." - Thu Bui, Marine Extension agent
LSG personnel were able to present the training to the state’s entire shrimping community either in person or online. “We were able to cross language barriers and present many meetings in Vietnamese to cater to our population of Vietnamese fishermen,” noted Thu Bui, LSG and AgCenter Marine Extension agent for St. Mary, Iberia and Vermilion parishes.
“The interesting thing is that there’ve been some spinoffs. We’ve continued to do technical assistance similar to the TAA program through the Louisiana Direct Seafood Marketing Program and the Louisiana Seafood Academy,” said Caffey.
In all, more than 4,600 shrimpers from the five Gulf of Mexico states applied for the program. Louisiana made up nearly half of the total number of applicants. Almost all of those who participated completed the necessary steps to receive full benefits.