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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. Starting June 1, 2021, eligible aquaculture producers can request ELAP assistance for 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
  • honeybee feed-colony-hive losses

Now, ELAP will provide financial assistance for aquacultured food fish death losses and feed losses.

Applying 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. For 2021 program year losses, the application period will end no later than January 31, 2022. To find your local FSA service center, visit farmers.gov/service-center-locator.

An aquaculture producer will need 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. To learn more, visit the Payment Eligibility and Payment Limitations by program at https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/payment-eligibility/pay-limitations/index.

In addition to submitting an application for payment, producers who suffered farm-raised fish losses must submit a notice of loss to the local FSA office that maintains the farm records for their business. The following table provides the final dates to file a notice of loss and application for payment for farm-raised fish losses.

 

Date of Farm-Raised Fish LossFinal Date to File Notice of LossFinal Date to Submit an Application for Payment
Program year 2021January 31, 2022January 31, 2022
Program year 2022 and subsequent yearsBy the later of 30 calendar days of when the loss of farm-raised fish is first apparentJanuary 30 following the program year

 

The FSA will use data furnished by the applicant to determine eligibility for program benefits. Furnishing the data is voluntary, however, without all required data, program benefits will not be approved or provided.

To find more information about FSA disaster assistance programs, visit farmers.gov or contact your local FSA office.

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