TAA update: September 2011

First published in the MLA Newsletter, Spetember, 2011.

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association and Maine Sea Grant will be offering another round of TAA workshops this fall. In-person training sessions are planned for Machias, Ellsworth, Rockland, and Portland throughout October and November. The workshops will cover a variety of topics, and are taught by working professionals with real world expertise on the topics.

Energy Consumption and Fishing Efficiency for Lobstermen asks the question “What could I be doing differently to improve my bottom line?” Participants are guided to consider their operation in terms of energy inputs and outputs and identify cost-effective short-term as well as long-term changes that may improve fuel efficiency, optimize labor and use of existing resources. Alternative fishing strategies that may improve catch efficiency are also reviewed.

Market Overview provides a basic overview of the lobster market in the Northeast. By gaining a clearer understanding of how lobster functions in the marketplace and exploring the importance of relationships between harvesters, dealers, processors, and consumers, participants can better understand how and where to market lobsters locally, and the regional, national and international markets at play.

Alternative Enterprises guides participants on an exploration of ways in which you can still use your boat and other assets to either supplement your current income or help you get in to a completely new profession. This workshop provides examples of ventures by lobstermen who have successfully started another business.

Marketing and Branding is designed for participants who wish to learn the basics of marketing and branding and how these practices relate to the seafood business. With the use of direct examples participants learn basic marketing techniques, how such techniques can play a role in your business, and where to find current information regarding market trends and consumer preferences.

Business Models discusses various methods of incorporating, best business practices, common ownership structures and the business models of cooperatives and community-supported fisheries. The workshop points out the significant differences in ownership structures as well as the pros and cons of cooperatives and community-supported fisheries as they apply to the lobster business.

Business Planning establishes the backbone of a well developed business. It is designed to help participants identify what their business is, where it’s going and how to reach specific goals. This workshop teaches participants what a business plan is and why it is important, as well as how to create one yourself. Participants will also have the opportunity to complete their Initial Business Plan, required to receive the first cash payment, at the end of the training.

To date, 1,150 Maine participants have completed at least some of the workshops towards their required 12 hours and 840 of those have fulfilled that requirement. 660 people have finished the Initial Business Plan. Following completion of the Initial Business Plan, participants are being assigned business planning consultants who will support participants as they work on their Long Term Business Plan

In addition to attending a workshop in person, participants may take any of the workshops online at www.taaforfarmers.org at their convenience. The schedule for in person trainings is in process and a full schedule for October and November will be sent to all TAA Participants via mail in addition to appearing in the next issue of this newsletter, and local newspapers.

TAA participants are eligible for the first round of payments following the completion of the Initial Business Plan. However, to date, the payments continue to be delayed due to a glitch in the TAA computer system. The Foreign Agricultural Service and the Farm Service Agency at the local county levels are currently working to reconcile data issues within the payment processing software and hope to start issuing payments in September.