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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Shrimpers seek more federal protection

Shrimpers seek more federal protection

Local shrimpers complained Wednesday that they didn’t make any profits last month and the federal government needs to do more to help them.

Speaking during the Louisiana Shrimp Association meeting at the American Legion Hall in Houma, shrimpers said import tariffs aren’t enough to protect their business. And foreign companies should not be able to sell shrimp in the U.S. if they are using banned antibiotics.

“We’re being treated differently than other businesses that are in the same situation we’re in,” said Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood Inc. in Grand Isle. “We’re comparable to rice farmers and sugarcane farmers.”

When these farmers, many of them in Louisiana, couldn’t compete with imports, they received help, Blanchard said. The federal government provides them subsidies. He added that they would be out of business if they had to work as hard as shrimpers.

“We need the same deal they got,” said Blanchard. “Why are we being treated differently than farmers? They’re letting foreign farmers come in and bring stuff in to compete with us. They’re being subsidized by their own government to come over and get the American dollar.”

Blanchard says that 15 years ago shrimpers worked hard and earned a decent living, but now they are working harder for less financial return.

“I got 38 years in this business and I’d like to retire,” said Blanchard. “I’d like to see smiling fishermen also.”

Acy Cooper, who heads the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force, said the shrimp industry has to be united in seeking changes. He noted U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, who represents southern Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, is someone who can help the fishermen.

“I can tell you that Mr. Scalise does support Louisiana fishermen, and he does support trade that is beneficial for America,” said Matthew Jule, a representative from Scalise’s office. “We want to get fair trade and what’s fair for Americans.”

The fall shrimp season is set to open Monday, August 13.