Fishing Industry Credit Enhancement Act: A lifeline for coastal fishing communities

By Carli Stewart.

In an effort to provide fishermen on opposite coasts with the relief they need, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Angus King, I-Maine, have introduced bipartisan legislation to expand financial support to America’s fishing communities. The effort reinforces coast-to-coast connections, as the State of Maine and Alaska alike have many small family businesses that make the gear, build, and maintain productions of seafood, and distribute both state’s local fish all around the world.

The Fishing Industry Credit Enhancement Act would allow businesses that have been providing direct assistance to fishing operations, such as gear production and cold storage, to access Farm Credit services. The bill’s passing would provide these businesses with access to the same loans from the Farm Credit System (FCS), which is a network of lending institutions that provides credit to the agriculture, logging, and fishing industries.

Founded in 1916 to help farmers who historically struggled to access reliable credit, FCS became wholly owned by their farmer-borrowers in 1968 when all government capital was repaid.

The Farm Credit Act (FCA) of 1971 gave banks and associations the ability to become more flexible in lending to production and agriculture, but there were still limitations with who could get those loans. When the new bipartisan legislation was announced, Senator King mentioned that he hoped they’d be able to get the bill passed, as the issues being raised by his constituents are in many ways connected to this development. He provided further insights around this issue in an exclusive interview with NF.

“The problem back in 1971 was that the bill expanded to all businesses that served agriculture, but it didn’t apply to all businesses that serve fishermen and their needs,” Senator King told National Fisherman.