Maine lobstermen and Maine blueberry growers are eligible for a training and financial assistance program through the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, called the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers program. The program is offered free of charge.

Earlier this year, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association  filed an application on behalf of all Maine lobstermen, and on Sept. 24, that petition was certified, paving the way for lobstermen to receive training and cash benefits through the TAA program. Maine’s blueberry harvesters also filed under the same program. Now lobstermen and blueberry harvesters from the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island were also certified through separate applications. The MLA, Maine Sea Grant, University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Farm Service Agency are working together to sign fishermen and blueberry harvesters in to the program, and to deliver training.

 

Meetings are planned along the coast to discuss the program and to help fishermen and harvesters get signed in. In Knox County, a meeting is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10 at the Thompson Community Center in Union.

Lobstermen and blueberry growers who can provide documentation that they harvested and sold Maine lobster or blueberries in 2009 and at least one other year between 2006 and 2008 are eligible. Lobstermen and blueberry growers must certify that their average gross “non-fishing/farm income” for 2009 did not exceed $500,000, and that their average “adjusted gross fishing/farm income” in 2009 did not exceed $750,000. Individuals can designate an alternate when applying to the program to attend part or all of the training programs on their behalf.

Applications must be made through a local USDA Farm Service Agency office. FSA staff will assist applicants in completing these forms. Application forms are available through local FSA offices. The deadline to apply is Friday, Dec. 31.