Tessa Getchis (Sea Grant) empties a dredge full of northern Quahogs. (Photo: Sea Grant)
Commercial shellfish farmers who use the ocean to grow their crops off the nation’s coastline now have the same kind of protection against crop losses as do people who farm on land, due to a recent change in federal policy.
The new language providing coverage was added to the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) as part of a recent Farm Bill and is a big deal for Connecticut’s $30 million aquaculture industry.
“We were thrilled to learn that after years of discussion with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), crops that have traditionally not been eligible for federal crop insurance have now been granted coverage under the NAP program,” said Tessa Getchis, a UConn aquaculture extension educator, who was instrumental in the policy change. “That’s a huge step forward for the aquaculture industry now that the program will cover losses due to named tropical storms and hurricanes.”
The program provides financial assistance to producers of what are normally considered non-insurable crops to protect against natural disasters resulting in crop losses or the prevention of crop planting. Before the new language, the law stated that commercial shellfish crops could be insured only if they were grown in containers or bags, but that’s not how it’s done in Long Island Sound. Instead, the majority of local farmers seed their clams and oysters directly on the ocean floor, and conduct their transplanting and harvest by dredging. Seaweed farmers grow their crops on ropes, not in containers. Today, the cultivation of clams, oysters, and kelp provides more than 300 local maritime jobs.
Connecticut has a long history of shellfish farming. Town records of early colonists in Groton mention experimentation with cultivation of oysters; and artificial beds in the Sound date from the 1820s. By the late 19th century, oyster cultivation had developed into a major industry.
[Source: Sheila Foran, UConnToday. read the full story]