USDA has announced it will soon make $34 million in grants for the catfish feed assistance program under the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003. The grants will be made available to state Departments of Agriculture, which will distribute the assistance to eligible catfish producers based on their calendar year 2002 catfish feed purchases.

“We are pleased to be able to offer this innovative relief to catfish producers who have experienced losses due to adverse weather and natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, in announcing the availability of the grants.

USDA's Commodity Credit Corp. will distribute grants to the states according to the number of tons submitted by applicable states. Upon receipt of the grants, the states will provide feed credits to eligible applicants who can redeem the feed credits with eligible feed processors.

The announcement comes amid complaints that USDA has been slow to provide funds for other disaster assistance programs authorized by the legislation. It took the department nearly four months from the passage of the Agricultural Assistance Act to begin signup for the 2001/2002-crop disaster program.

As of July 24, USDA had issued $483 million in payments for crop disasters or only a small portion of the $2 billion anticipated. The slow pace is due, in part, to delays in the delivery of computer software to county FSA offices.

For further details, catfish producers should contact the Department of Agriculture in the state where their catfish feed processor is physically located.

USDA has developed a Web site that provides producers with one convenient location for details on new and existing disaster assistance. The Web site can be accessed at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov/.