The money will be given to fish farmers to offset the rising cost of feed.
States such as Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi received millions through the program because they are much larger players in an international industry that nearly tripled in size between 1995 and 2007, when Time magazine says its sales reached $78 billion.
In Georgia, only 13 of the state’s 150 some fish farmers applied for the assistance, which Coleman called surprising. Still, their requests totaled $313,614, exceeding the amount awarded to the state.
All the fish farmers who applied will receive an equal share of the state’s money, Coleman said.
It should provide some relief to Matt Getsinger, the owner of Georgia Select Fish Farm in Bartow.
Getsinger said fish farmers were squeezed by the 2008 Farm Bill’s heavy subsidy for cellulosic ethanol designed to make the nation less dependent on foreign oil. That helped fuel the increase in corn prices.
While corn is important to beef, pork and poultry producers, the crop makes up a bigger part of the variable — or uncontrollable — costs for fish farmers, Getsinger said.
Combine that with heavy pressure from foreign competition, particularly from East Asia, and fish farmers suffer, he said.
“We’ve had to absorb a tremendous cost-of-feed increase whereas other industries are able to pass it on,” he said, because if fish farmers raise their prices, they will lose market share.
Like all the stimulus projects funded through the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the fish farming program has a job connection.
That’s true for Getsinger’s operation, which consists of four full-time employees and up to 10 part-timers at the season’s peak between May and July. With his share, he says he will be able to keep at least two full-time workers from either being let go or having to shift to a part-time schedule.