On June 24, President Trump signed a memorandum calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make available to the lobster industry subsidies like those given to soybean and other agricultural farmers. Maine’s Congressional delegation lobbied for such a move in a June 2019 letter to the President.
The order from Trump but directs the Agriculture Department to extend a $30 billion farm bailout program to Maine’s commercial fishermen. The program previously sent cash to corn, soybean, pig and other farmers, primarily in the Midwest. The action follows years of lobbying by Maine’s congressional delegation, which cited “severe financial difficulties due to unfair retaliatory tariffs” instituted by the Trump administration.
It is unclear how much aid the industry will get or how fishermen will access it. Between 2018 and 2019, the Trump administration rolled out $25 billion in similar offsets directed at Midwestern farmers hurt by U.S. trade policies. Trump also directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to report by July 15 on whether China is beginning to comply with $150 million in lobster purchase commitments under the “Phase one” agreement signed by the president earlier this year.
Governor Janet Mills responded to the President’s Memorandum saying, “Earlier this year, I wrote to the President asking him to marshal the resources of the Federal government to support Maine’s seafood industry during this unprecedented time. My Commissioner of Marine Resources, Pat Keliher, also wrote to Peter Navarro, the President’s Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, urging him to prioritize trade policies that will help our lobster industry regain its competitive footing. After years of hammering Maine’s fishermen with shortsighted trade wars, I am pleased the President is beginning to recognize the harm his Administration’s policies have caused and now wants to take steps to rectify them. This is a welcome step forward. My Administration will continue to work closely with Maine’s Congressional delegation to support our hardworking fishermen and seafood producers. Their work is the lifeblood of our coastal communities and a cornerstone of our economy.”