THE POST-SIGNAL / Steve Bandy
U.S. Congressman Clay Higgins was in Midland Tuesday morning to address area crawfish farmers concerning federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
CONGRESSMAN HIGGINS ADDRESSES CRAWFISH FARMERS
MIDLAND — Coronavirus relief dollars are out there for crawfish farmers in South Louisiana. Getting to it, however, might be a little tricky.
U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins addressed about 60 crawfish farmers and producers at the Thibodeaux Brothers Farm in Midland Tuesday morning to help explain the process.
The Republican Congressman from the 3rd District first reviewed the steps taken by the federal government in response to the coronavirus pandemic, adding that he was not in favor of a nationwide shutdown of businesses.
“If you have a wreck in Crowley or Lafayette, you don’t shut down the streets in Monroe,” he said. “Since day one I have supported the states’ rights to make a decision.”
He said the decision to “shut down consumption” had the biggest impact on farmers — all farmers.
“My office was very involved in writing the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act, but the bill that was passed was not the bill I would have written — not 100 percent,” he said.
However, he touted the “tremendous accomplishment” of Representatives and Senators in getting “the largest financial relief package in the history of the world pushed through in six days.
“I supported the CARES Act because it sent money straight to American workers through community banks.”
Through the Act, Higgins said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is “very well-funded with relief for American farmers.”
But, because crawfish farmers were “lumped in” with aquaculture, “access to that money is a little different from a traditional crop farmer.”
Higgins said he was not happy with the decision to include crawfish farmers with “salmon farmers and catfish farmers,” but added that he “understood from a national perspective.”
Any aid to crawfish farmers will come out of a $637 million pool but “because crawfish farmers have traditionally not been engaged with USDA,” determining the amount of aid is still up in the air.
A recent survey by USDA and LSU determined that crawfish farmers lost an average of about 81 cents per pound and left more than 14 million pounds of crawfish in ponds when restaurants, schools, caterers, etc. were closed.
Turning to the harvesters of wild crawfish, Higgins said they are being treated differently “because that’s considered fishing, not farmed as a crop,” therefore, not considered “farmers.”
He said he and other Congressmen are working to remedy that situation.
“There is still billions of dollars in the CARES Act,” Higgins said. “Finding appropriate means of getting at it and getting it to the right people is the biggest challenge. Every American family has been impacted negatively by COVID-19.
“Your access to relief funding is a narrow path and you’re going to have follow the rules, but we will be there to help you navigate it.”