In an unprecedented display of bipartisanship, the General Assembly passed SB 648 in 2019 adopting many of the strategy’s recommendations. The bill recognized the potential economic value of shellfish aquaculture in our state, especially as a future economic driver in uniquely economically stressed coastal regions. The bill also called for the development of a formal study to determine the merits of creating potential low-interest loans as incentive for existing and future growers going into the oyster farming business and charged the federation with developing the study.
Working with the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association and Thread Capital, a subsidiary of the N.C Rural Center, the Coastal Federation led development of the study that identified two key barriers to increasing shellfish aquaculture in the state: the lack of access to funding sources for shellfish growers, and the lack of a comprehensive federal crop insurance plan to protect their businesses in the case of damage or loss.
The study recommends that the state appropriate $1 million for the establishment of the low-interest loan program for the shellfish industry that would direct funds to Thread Capital to set up a lending fund, and appropriate $30,000 to the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association to help develop a federal crop insurance program in support of the robust loan program.
Noting that these two actions would be great steps toward advancing growth of the industry, Chris Matteo, president of the N.C. Shellfish Growers Association stated that “Oyster farmers in North Carolina have not had good access to the financing necessary to scale their businesses. The loan study conducted by the Coastal Federation is the first meaningful step in analyzing and communicating that need to N.C. legislators. Our industry will struggle to reach its full potential unless farmers have access to capital and crop insurance at reasonable rates.”