Understanding the USDA Farm Service Agency Programs for Shellfish Growers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) is responsible for the delivery of federal farm programs to help producers manage risks and recover from disasters. The Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program, or NAP, provides financial assistance to growers of non-insurable crops to protect them against natural disasters that result in crop losses. Learn about coverage levels for the 2019 crop year, application deadlines, and which counties cover oyster crops. The 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program, or WHIP, provides disaster relief to agricultural and aquacultural producers. This funding helps replace losses occurred during the 2017 hurricane season. Learn about eligibility and other requirements. Heather Boyd, Agricultural Program Specialist at the state FSA office, and Brandy VanAernam, Director of the Gilchrist County FSA office, will be available to explain both programs and answer your questions.

When: Friday, August 24, 2018, 2:00 to 4:00 pm

Where: FWC Senator Kirkpatrick Marine Lab, 11350 SW 153rd Court, Cedar Key, FL Continue reading

Industry Inputs on Aquaculture Priorities Requested by USDA

To address the current needs and challenges facing the aquaculture industry, stakeholders and industry members have been invited to voice their opinions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Aquaculture National Program, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) use this information to prioritize and establish frameworks for aquaculture research and extension programs over the next five years. In 2013, shellfish priorities included domestication of oysters, reproduction, health tools, and production technology. A full list of the 2013 sessions can be found here. To continue the discussion, you are invited to participate in the 2018 online Molluscan Shellfish session, which will take place on August 15, 2018, from 1 pm – 4 pm (EDT). Other sessions include: Continue reading

GoM Shellfish Initiative: Stakeholder Feedback

To advance the nation’s first regional shellfish initiative, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission provided funding to the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. The Gulf of Mexico Shellfish Initiative (GoMexSI) team engaged a broad range of stakeholders including shellfish farmers, shellfish harvesters, environmental organizations, state and local management agencies, foundations, and others to identify strategies to be implemented in the future to ensure sustainable shellfish populations for current and future generations.

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Presentations and Video of Triploid Oyster Culture Workshop Available

Natural triploids of the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica have only been available for commercial use for the past 15-17 years elsewhere in the U.S., and not until 2014 in Florida. Despite the proof of concept in other coastal states, there is a need to understand whether the application of triploidy in the development of the emergent industry in Florida will result in increased production and economic gains. Florida represents the southernmost limit of natural distribution for the eastern oyster in the United States. In contrast to other states, Florida’s subtropical water temperatures result in a prolonged spawning season for oysters. The effects of triploidy, which results in reproductive sterility, on the performance of cultured oysters produced by tetraploid technology under these conditions have not yet been documented. Continue reading

USDA Implements Hurricane Recovery Funding

2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP) to Aid Recovery in Rural Communities

 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion, as provided by Congress, to help America’s farmers and ranchers recover from hurricanes and wildfires. The funds are available as part of the new 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). Authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, sign-up for the new program will begin no later than July 16.

 USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will make these disaster payments to agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and devastating wildfires. The 2017 calendar year was a historic year for natural disasters, and this investment package is part of a broader suite of programs that USDA is delivering to rural America to aid recovery. In total, the Act provided more than $3 billion in disaster relief by creating new programs and expediting or enhancing payments for producers. Continue reading

Workshops: Application of Triploidy to Oyster Culture

To address increased interest in oyster aquaculture on Florida’s west coast, an applied research and demonstration project was conducted during 2016-17 to evaluate an oyster breeding process to local conditions. Diploid and triploid oysters were cultured at commercial farms in four counties and at the UF experimental site in Cedar Key, where replicated field trials allowed for documenting effects of several management practices on production.

Workshops will be held on Thursday, May 3, 2018 at the FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory, 3618 Coastal Hwy 98, St. Teresa, FL; and Friday, May 4, 2018 at the FWC Senator George Kirkpatrick Marine Lab, 11350 SW 153rd Court, Cedar Key, FL.

Both workshops are from 3:00 to 5:00 PM.

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Webinar: The Cooperative Advantage of Marketing Local Farm-Raised Seafood

Peggy Fogarty from Keystone Development Center (KDC) will present a free webinar and case study on aquaculture cooperatives during March 29th at 12:00 pm eastern during the next edition of the Aquaculture Webinar Series co-produced and funded by the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center, the United States Aquaculture Society, and the National Aquaculture Association.

Webinar Topic: New Jersey Shellfish growers were seeking ways for cooperatively expanding their markets. The farmers recognize that to increase their on-farm income, they need to increase the volume of what they produce, eliminate losses due to the perishable nature of food, minimize transportation and packaging expenses, and receive the highest price for what they sell. To do all this is nearly impossible for a single farm operation, but by collectively pooling their resources and efforts through the cooperative, they potentially can accomplish their goals. Continue reading

Energy Cost Share Program for Aquaculture

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) developed the ERICA program to increase energy efficiency, reduce energy usage, and lower operating costs at commercial aquaculture facilities in Florida.

This grant program is designed to provide grant reimbursement for technologies that significantly increase energy efficiency and renewable energy for eligible commercial aquaculture facilities and farms located in Florida.


Qualified applicants are those applicants who are certified under Section 597.004, Florida Statutes, and have a physical presence in the state of Florida. The applicant must maintain certification throughout the project implementation and the one-year energy data collection period.

Application Process

An application packet consists of the following documents.

FDACS will begin accepting applications on February 19, 2018. The application period will remain open until all funds are expended. Each applicant may submit only ONE application in response to this NOFA.

Please see the NOFA and its attachments for full details regarding program requirements, eligibility and application submittal.

Applications must be submitted in hard copy to:

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Office of Energy
ATTN: Florida Energy Technology Cost Share Program – Efficiency and Renewable Improvements in Commercial Aquaculture
600 South Calhoun Street, Room B04
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Direct programmatic questions to Mrs. Gail Stafford at Energy@FreshFromFlorida.com. Answers to questions received by 5 p.m. EST each Thursday will be posted by 12 p.m. EST on the following Monday.

Funding Availability

Minimum award: $5,000

Maximum award: $30,000

Total funding available: $1,002,103.33

Cost Share

The grantee cost share amount is 25 percent of grant funds requested.

Frequently Asked Questions [ Adobe PDF Document 194.05 KB ]

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Agricultural Budgeting Webinar, April 5, 2018

An In-Service Training entitled “Intermediate/Advanced Budgeting for Agriculture and Horticulture Enterprises in Florida” will be offered on April 5, 2018, 9am-4pm, via distance education (webinar). Email Alan Hodges at awhodges@ufl.edu and ask to register for IST (In-Service Training) #31487.

Purpose and Objectives: Budgeting is an important business management technique to estimate costs of production per unit or unit area. Budgets are used by producers to plan production schedules and input purchase requirements, evaluate alternative production practices, assess business risks, determine enterprise mix and product pricing. Budgets are often required by lenders as part of a loan application, and are used by policy makers to understand the impact of various policy choices. UF-IFAS extension personnel and Florida agricultural producers often have only a rudimentary understanding of budgeting. Ideally, budgeting should be done well in advance of any actual production activities. Training on this topic will enable IFAS Extension personnel to better advise commercial clients to more effectively budget for their enterprises, to realize cost control and greater profitability.

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Hatchery Seminar January 17 in Cedar Key

Shellfish Hatchery Experiences with Scott Rickard, Auburn University Shellfish Lab 

A series of workshops / seminars is being conducted to address industry issues in the production of shellfish seed. Hatchery operators and personnel are invited to attend. In this seminar, Scott Rikard with the Auburn University Shellfish Lab will talk about his shellfish hatchery experiences, including the following topics: running a seasonal, outdoor hatchery facility—do’s and don’ts, recent improvements to address production issues, use of commercial algal paste versus live algae cultures, use of containerized spawning system, and optimizing oyster set on micro-cultch. Scott manages the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory on Dauphin Island, Alabama. With 27 years of hatchery experience, Scott oversees both hatchery research activities and commercial production of seed for the growing oyster culture industry in the Gulf of Mexico. His applied approach and practical experiences in setting up and running a hatchery apply to any bivalve shellfish species.

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