Recently introduced legislation could be a big help to fishing-related businesses and fishing communities. The Fishing Industry Credit Enhancement Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Angus King and Lisa Murkowski, would provide access to loans from the Farm Credit System for businesses that supply goods and services to the fishing fleet.
“The Fishing Industry Credit Enhancement Act would allow businesses that provide direct assistance to fishing operations—like gear producers or cold storage—to access the same loans from the Farm Credit System (FCS) already offered to service providers for farmers, ranchers, and loggers,” said Senator King.
The Farm Credit System is part of the Farm Credit Administration, an independent agency, created in 1933, to regulate the Farm Credit System. The FCS comprises lenders who provide reliable credit to commodity producers like farmers, ranchers, loggers and fishermen. It does not receive federal appropriations. In the 1970s, businesses that supported commodity producers were allowed access to the FCS. Unfortunately, fishing-related businesses were not included.
“Alaska is home to a unique agriculture industry. That’s why it’s as important as ever that our national policies surrounding farming, ranching, and ag reflect not only the priorities of those in the Lower 48, but also the unique needs of communities across the state. The Fishing Industry Credit Enhancement Act is a straightforward, common-sense amendment to the Farm Credit Act of 1971 ensuring businesses that support Alaska’s fishing industry—our ranchers of the sea—have the same financing opportunities as businesses supporting our land-based farmers and ranchers,” said Senator Murkowski.
Legislation like this is recognition of the importance of local business in coastal communities. Fishermen need these support businesses and services close at hand so they can concentrate on fishing. In turn, those support businesses boost other businesses in the community, creating a thriving working waterfront.
“These reliable loans are huge economic drivers for rural communities, helping businesses invest in new expansions, hire more workers, or modernize operations.” said Senator King.
Senator Murkowski is correct when she equates fishing with other agricultural operations. Creating parity for fishermen with other producers makes sense. If we are to encourage domestic consumption of seafood, we must remove barriers to domestic fishing operators, so they can focus on fishing and bringing wild-caught seafood to consumers.
This legislation would make a great addition to the upcoming reauthorization of federal agriculture programs in the Agriculture Improvement Act (also known as the farm bill).