Texas catfish producers may qualify for benefits from the U.S. Government, based on their catfish farm income in 2001and 2002. Catfish producers eligible for the program will constitute producers of food fish. If a producer of catfish can document a decline in income in 2002 versus 2001, he or she should further investigate this Catfish Technical Assistance Program.

The Catfish Technical Assistance Program provides business owners, producers and their employees relief from hardships created by foreign import competition. Benefits can come as cash or technical and educational re-training. Producers become eligible if their gross revenue did not exceed $2.5 million dollars for the preceding 3 years.

Cash payments may be as much as $10,000, depending on the amount of product harvested. Also, average price for the commodity in the most recent 12 months must be less than 80 percent of the average price over the past five years in which data are available. Imports of directly competing products must have increased during the most recent 12-month period. And this import increase must have ‚Äúcontributed importantly‚ÄĚ to the price decrease.

Catfish farmers interested in the program must apply for benefits at their County USDA Farm Service Agency office no later than February l6, 2004. Following the application, producers will be required to submit various production documents and receive technical training from Texas Cooperative Extension. The training sessions will be offered in public meeting format and/or individual consultation/small group sessions by the County Extension office.

The program is available through the Trade Act of 1974, as amended by the Trade Act of 2002, which established Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Farmers.

The technical assistance will be provided at no cost to the producers. Sources for assistance are also listed at http://www.agrisk.umn.edu/taex. Producers may contact their local FSA office, or Texas Cooperative Extension Office for more information on this program.