Louisiana shrimp and catfish producers may be eligible to participate in the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program.

The two commodities recently were certified as part of the program, according to LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry.

“To become certified, commodities have to show they have had a greater than 15 percent reduction in the price received in the petition year versus the three-year average and prove that the majority of the decrease in price was related to an increase in imports,” Guidry said.

The program offers technical and financial assistance to eligible producers. The sign-up period for the program started June 25, and producers have until Sept. 23 to apply.

To be eligible, shrimpers had to be working in 2008 and catfish producers had to be in production in 2009. Individuals also must have either experienced a decrease in sales during 2008 for shrimpers or 2009 for catfish producers or show the price they received during the petition year was lower than the previous three-year average.

Guidry says the Farm Service Agency is attempting to get blanket-eligibility status for producers in a region that can prove the price of their commodity was lower on the date the petition was filed, which was in May, than the three previous years.

“The impact that we’ve seen from the oil spill on shrimp prices may make that price higher than the previous three years, so that would make it hard for a blanket approval,” he said.

The technical training component of the program has three phases. The first phase will consist of a three- or four-hour workshop.

“This will provide a general overview of the trade adjustment programs, as well as provide some market outlook and industry outlook for the program,” Guidry said.

Phase two will include 12 hours of training in topics relevant to the commodity.

“This training will give producers information to help them become more efficient in the production, marketing and financial management of their operations,” Guidry said. “We want them to be able to better deal with the impacts of the increased imports.”

Producers also will be required to develop a short-term business plan and submit it to the national and regional Trade Adjustment Assistance centers for approval.

After completing these two phases, producers would be eligible to receive financial assistance of up to $4,000.

Guidry noted the financial assistance is a flat rate and is not tied to the size of the operation.

Producers also can continue with the program by participating in the third phase, which consists of developing a long-term business plan.

“The national Trade Adjustment Assistance center will designate a consultant to work with a producer to develop a long-term business plan,” Guidry said.

This plan also must be submitted for approval to the national center. Producers completing this phase could receive a financial assistance payment of up to $8,000.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has established a three-year time period for all phases to be completed.

Producers who are interested in the program can find more information and download an application at LSUAgCenter.com. Parish LSU AgCenter offices and Farm Service Agency offices also have applications and additional information.