TAA workshops are here!

First published in the MLA Newsletter, June, 2011.

The TAA workshops are here! The TAA program has rolled out a series of workshops for lobster industry members enrolled in the program. All workshops are available for credit online at www.taaforfarmers.org and in-person at venues in Machias, Ellsworth, Rockland and Portland areas. The workshop topics cover:

– Quality and Handling
– Overview of the Lobster Market
– Business Models
– Marketing and Branding
– Production Efficiency
– Alternate Enterprises

In addition to these lobster-related workshops, participants can take other online business training workshops developed by the USDA to meet the program’s requirement of 12 hours of workshop time. Here in Maine, workshops will continue to be scheduled through the end of June so that all participants have an opportunity to complete the workshop phase as soon as possible. In addition to completing 12 hours of workshops, participants must submit a short-term business plan in order to become eligible for the first cash payment.

Recently, TAA participants received a letter from USDA saying that the maximum payments would be approximately $3,500 instead of the $12,000 originally proposed. This has left many understandably confused and frustrated.

The money is short for two reasons. First, the TAA program cycle under which Maine qualified was funded at $22.5 million for cash payments to program participants. This figure came from Congress. Second, over 6,000 people signed up for the program, including those from the lobster industry, Maine blueberry growers, and shrimp fishermen in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. Dividing $22.5 million by the 6,000+ participants yields the $3,500 number. The administrative and delivery costs for the program are funded by a separate pot of money allocated by Congress which is unrelated to the amount paid to TAA participants.

TAA is primarily a business development and training program, with cash payments offered as an incentive to participate in the training. Even with $1,200 for the first payment, that’s still $100 per hour to participate in a program designed to help you make more money.

Those who complete the program receive business planning assistance and information to improve their profitability, and they get paid for it.