NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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June 17, 2013

Fed Farm Bill includes provisions for fishermen

The federal government’s 2013 Farm Bill approved last week by the U.S. Senate also includes a pair of provisions aimed at providing help for the embattled Gloucester and New England groundfishing industry.

But there remain no signs of direct aid aimed at addressing the “economic disaster” declared last September by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and no relief from the tight limit cuts and regulations now strangling New England’s groundfishermen remain in place.

The federal Farm Bill, approved on a bipartisan vote of 66-27, still must face passage in the U.S. House, and then a reconciliation between the two. But the Senate Farm Bill include provisions — authored by acting Massachusetts Sen. William “Mo” Cowan — calling for a fisheries insurance study and a move to make fishermen eligible to become recipients of emergency disaster loans, according to the online fishing industry reporting service, savingseafood.com.

“While this is not a perfect bill, I was pleased that I could help to include critical provisions for Massachusetts that will support our local and regional food producers as well as recognize and provide some relief for our fishing industry,” Cowan said in a prepared statement. “Additionally, this legislation will go a long way in boosting our economy by creating a number of jobs across the commonwealth and the nation.

“Unfortunately, while we were able to get much-needed support in some key areas, the final bill falls short of protecting all crucial funding for nutrition assistance that folks back home and around the country rely on every day,” Cowan said. “When the bill goes to conference we must work hard to hold the line and steer clear of the draconian cuts to the nutrition program proposed by the Republicans in the House of Representatives.”

The emergency disaster loan program eligibility follows a 2012 push by then-U.S. John Kerry, who is now U.S. secretary of state and whose seat Cowan is filling until after the June 25 special U.S. Senate election is decided between Democratic Congressman Ed Markey and Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez.

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