NARRAGANSETT, RI – Rhode Island fishermen who’ve been negatively impacted by President Trump’s trade wars should soon begin to see some much needed financial relief from the federal government.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed says that eligible Rhode Island fishermen can apply for cash payouts of up to $250,000 each from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The federal assistance is part of a new $530 million seafood trade relief program that is funded through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).  The federal program will pay commercial permit holders a species-specific amount for every pound they landed in 2019 up to the $250,000 cap.  Senator Reed urged USDA to do more to help the seafood industry, including in direct discussions with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and helped ensure that squid and other stocks were among the 16 types of seafood included on the USDA’s eligible species list. 

According to estimates from Senator Reed’s office, Rhode Island fishermen could receive about $10 million based on the 2019 catch for qualifying species landed in the state and the USDA payment rates.  The final totals will depend on how many fishermen apply and how many reach the payment ceiling.

“American fishermen have been hammered by Trump’s trade war policies and mismanaged coronavirus response.  This federal relief is a long overdue step to help them.  While I am pleased we were able to include squid on the list to help more Rhode Island fishermen, I am disappointed that the Trump Administration isn’t using more of its authority to help the broader seafood industry,” said Reed.  “We’re the Ocean State and seafood is critical to our economy.  I will continue working to help our fishermen, restaurants, and local processors and distributors.” 

Rhode Island’s seafood industry faces numerous challenges due the ongoing trade dispute between the Trump Administration and several nations, including China, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Squid is Rhode Island’s most valuable fishery.  Last year, local fishermen offloaded about 22 million pounds of squid at fishing ports around the state, most of it at the port of Galilee, and the 2019 catch brought in a dock value of $28 million.

Under the criteria established by USDA, eligible wild caught fish species must have been subject to at least $5 million in retaliatory tariffs and trade damages in order to qualify for assistance.  Qualified species include the following: Atka Mackerel; Crab; Flounder; Geoduck; Goosefish; Herrings; Lobster; Pacific Cod; Pacific Ocean Perch; Pollock; Sablefish; Salmon; Sole; Squid; Tuna; and Turbot.

Starting Monday, September 14, licensed commercial fishermen may apply through their local Farm Service Agency service center:  The application process runs through December 14, 2020.

To qualify, fishermen must have proof of their 2019 landings of an impacted species, proof of adjusted gross income, tax ID number and direct deposit information. 

According to USDA’s Notice of Funds Availability, the rate of payout varies per species and based on market impact, with lobster netting 50 cents per pound, followed by crab (47 per pound), squid (20 cents per pound), flounder (15 cents per pound), herring (4 cents per pound), and pollock (1 cent per pound).

Additionally, earlier this year, Senator Reed helped secure nearly $3.3 million in fishery disaster assistance to help Rhode Island fishermen impacted by COVID-19.  This funding came from a $300 million appropriation included in the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law No. 116-136).  Senator Reed was part of a bipartisan working group that helped negotiate key provisions of the CARES Act.

Starting today, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will begin accepting applications for fisheries assistance now through 4 p.m. on September 28.  The funds are designated to assist four eligible groups: aquaculture' commercial fishing; party and charter; and seafood processors.  More information and applications are available at DEM’s CARES Act Fishery Disaster Assistance Program web site.