Licensed North Carolina catfish farmers have until May 31 to apply for assistance to offset losses due to drought conditions over the past three years.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services secured a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to offer the 2005-2007 Catfish Grant Program. Assistance will be determined by tons of feed a producer purchased. The maximum reimbursement is $26 per ton.

The program will help catfish farmers with losses caused by increased feed prices and lost feeding days due to extreme temperatures. “Catfish producers, like most North Carolina agricultural producers, have faced many difficult economic hardships due to the droughts in 2006 and 2007,” said Matt Parker, aquaculture and agribusiness consultant for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “USDA’s Catfish Grant Program will be a way for these growers to begin to recover economically.”

As the seventh-largest producer of farm-raised catfish in the United States in 2007, North Carolina’s catfish industry provides more than $6 million in farm-gate value and supports hundreds of jobs, many in rural areas of the state.

North Carolina catfish producers suffered significant losses in production during 2005, 2006 and 2007 when drought-related water temperatures caused catfish to reduce their feeding and lose body weight for production.

To help determine costs associated with lost feeding days, NCDA&CS will use water temperature data collected by Carolina Classics Catfish of Ayden, North Carolina’s only catfish processor.

Only people currently raising catfish in North Carolina with an NCDA&CS Aquaculture Production License will qualify for this program. Applications, which were mailed to eligible producers, should be returned to Ron Fish, 1020 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1020.

For more information, contact Matt Parker at (252) 633-1477.