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Aquaculture Financing Loan Programme Opens


US Maryland's new shellfish aquaculture financing programme will be accepting a second round of applications between 2 January and 31 January.

The programme received 16 applications totaling more than $1.3 million during the first round, which closed on November 30. There is a total of $2.2 million currently available for the programme, which is a cooperative effort among the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), the University of the Maryland Sea Grant Extension (UME) and the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO).

“We are very pleased with the original response to this programme, which we created to provide affordable financing to watermen and other individuals starting or expanding commercial shellfish aquaculture operations,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.

“This second application period will allow those who were unable to meet the original deadline another opportunity to participate.”

The new shellfish aquaculture loan programme is a subsidized programme with principal payments returning to a revolving fund to support additional shellfish aquaculture funding needs in the future. The loan programme offers partial loan forgiveness for borrowers meeting certain performance conditions. MARBIDCO is pricing the loans at a fixed annual interest rate not to exceed 4.5 percent. A Shellfish Aquaculture Financing Committee, including representatives from DNR, MDA, UME, a Maryland farm credit association, and MARBIDCO, has been established to evaluate applications and proposed business plans.

As with the first round of funding, MARBIDCO and DNR intend to give priority to applicants who will begin shellfish production operations in 2011. Those who plan shellfish production operations in 2011 must hold a DNR shellfish aquaculture lease, or must have applied to DNR for a shellfish aquaculture lease by no later than 31 January.

More than two-thirds of the funding for the programme comes from a federal blue crab fishery disaster allocation for Maryland. The National Marine Fisheries Service award, which was requested by Governor O’Malley and advocated for by Senator Mikulski and Maryland’s congressional delegation in 2008, has supported a variety of watermen work programmes as well as a programme to retire inactive commercial limited crab catcher licenses. Additional funds are being provided by DNR to supplement the federal funding.