Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson has announced that Florida aquaculturists can apply for federal stimulus money to offset high feed prices experienced during 2008.

Bronson's office has mailed Aquaculture Grant Program applications to approximately 600 aquaculturists in Florida.

"Sky-high feed costs in 2008 triggered fish farm closings throughout the Southeast," Bronson said. "We are moving these funds to Florida farmers as quickly as we can and we are very appreciative of the opportunity to expedite this federal program."

Florida was allocated $341,806 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the state's portion of $50 million feed stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. All the funds will be distributed to qualified applicants on a pro-rata basis; none of the funds will be used for program administration.

Florida aquaculture ranks seventh among all states with aquaculture sales of $61.3 million in 2005. Principal farming segments include tropical ornamental fish, shellfish, food fish (catfish, tilapia, and hybrid striped bass), reptiles (alligators and turtles), baitfish and game fish.

Aquaculturists who apply must return completed applications to the Aquaculture Grant Program, 1203 Governor's Square Boulevard, Suite 501, Tallahassee, Fla. 32301-2961, by 5 p.m. on July 24, 2009.