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Figure 1. Catfish harvest in western Alabama. (Photo credit: Alabama Farmers Federation)

Aquaculture industries in the United States have been lobbying for federal emergency loss assistance to offset catastrophic losses for many years. Winter storms hit states along the Gulf of Mexico in February 2021 causing large losses. The losses have guaranteed access to financial assistance, like funds made available to livestock and honeybee producers during similar disasters.

ELAP Policy Change

On May 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced a policy change to the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). The update makes fish raised for food and other aquatic species eligible for disaster assistance as declared by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. In Alabama, this includes farm-raised catfish, an industry that produces more than 90 million pounds of fish worth $99 million annually. Previously, only farm-raised game and bait fish were eligible for death loss ELAP payments. Beginning June 1, eligible aquaculture producers can request ELAP assistance for 2021 losses of aquacultured food fish.

Previous ELAP Parameters

Traditionally, ELAP provided financial assistance to producers of livestock and honeybees for certain adverse weather events or loss conditions—including blizzards and wildfires. Examples of past ELAP financial assistance provided for livestock feed and grazing losses; losses resulting from the transporting of water to livestock due to an eligible drought; losses resulting from gathering livestock for treatment and/or inspection related to cattle tick fever; and honeybee feed-colony-hive losses.

Now, ELAP will provide financial assistance for aquacultured food fish death losses and feed losses. As a new addition to an existing program, additional details will be forthcoming from FSA.

Apply for Assistance

Aquaculture producers can apply to receive ELAP assistance at local FSA service centers. The ELAP application period ends December 31 of each calendar year. To be eligible, fish raised for food losses must have occurred on or after January 1, 2021. FSA is waiving the requirement to file a notice of loss within 30 calendar days of when the loss is apparent, but only if the loss occurred prior to June 1, 2021.

An aquaculture producer will still need to be able to provide records upon request to document the eligible loss event and demonstrate the beginning and ending fish inventories. Producers with an average adjusted gross income (AGI) that exceeds $900,000 are not eligible to receive ELAP payments. Visit the FSA website for more details on payment limitations.


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