The U.S. Department of Agriculture has crafted another financial assistance program to provide about $530 million to U.S. seafood industry members and fishermen that have been stung by retaliatory trade tariffs from other nations.

The Seafood Trade and Relief Program is separate from other federal financial assistance programs designed to mitigate the economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, such as the $300 million contained in the CARES Act or the $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. 

The new funding is solely for commercial lobstermen and fishermen who suffered negative financial implications from retaliatory tariffs with foreign trading partners, such as China and the European Union.

“Many nations have not played by the rules for a long time,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement accompanying Wednesday’s announcement of the new financial assistance program. “The Seafood Trade Relief Program ensures fishermen and other U.S. producers will not stand alone in facing unjustified retaliatory tariffs.”

The USDA on Thursday said the trade relief program will provide direct financial assistance to beneficiaries and only commercial fishermen and lobstermen are eligible to receive the funds.

The agency said the application period for the $530 million opens Monday and closes on Dec. 14. Fishermen must apply for the funds online or through local USDA service centers.

The closest USDA service center to Cape Ann is in Westford. The applications are scheduled to be available online at www.farmers.gov/Seafood, beginning Monday.

U.S. commercial fishermen with a valid federal or state license or permit who land and sell their catch to legally permitted seafood dealers are eligible for the funds.

“Alternatively, the catch can be processed at sea and sold by the same legally permitted entity that harvested or processed the product,” the USDA said.

Eligible seafood species must have been subject to retaliatory tariffs and suffered more than $5 million in retaliatory trade damages.

The seafood commodities covered by the Seafood Trade and Relief Program include lobster, flounder, pollock, sole, squid and tuna.

“The STRP seafood payment rate is on a per-pound basis,” the USDA said. “Those payment rates reflect the estimated severity of the impact of trade disruptions to U.S. seafood caught and sold commercially, and the adjustments to new trade patterns for the types of seafood products.”

The USDA said the program caps the financial assistance at $250,000 per applicant. Additionally, an applicant’s average adjusted gross income cannot exceed $900,000 unless at least 75% of the AGI of the person or entity is derived from seafood harvesting.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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