New England’s shellfish farmers may soon have better protections for their crops.
The U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee recently passed the 2018 Farm Bill, which would allow shellfish farmers to federally insure their crops at different life stages.
"(The new insurance options allow) them a new and better tool to manage the risk of unexpected disasters happening to their crop and to recover better should something unforeseen happen," Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island's democratic U.S. senator, said.
Whitehouse has been working with democratic senators from Connecticut, New York and Maryland to push for more insurance options for shellfish.
Clams, oysters and other shellfish can get sick, and diseased shellfish crops pose a risk to those who farm them for a living.
However, right now, only oysters are eligible for federal crop insurance and are considered one crop.
Whitehouse believes the status quo is inadequate. He said shellfish should be considered different types of crops, depending on their life stage, to accommodate risks from unexpected weather events and illnesses.
"To have the industry be stable and able to have people invest more because they have some insurance that they’ll be protected against catastrophic loss by this insurance program, is a big plus for the whole Rhode Island economy," Whitehouse said.
There are 73 shellfish farms in the state, and last year they sold more than 8.4 million oysters.
The 2018 Farm Bill now needs approval by the full U.S. Senate before moving on to the House of Representatives.