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December 20, 2007   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
December 20, 2007

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Commissioner Ron Sparks of Alabama's Department of Agriculture and Industries said Thursday that he hopes a $3 million Livestock Compensation Program grant announced by the USDA will "help keep our catfish farmers in business."

Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner announced Wednesday that Alabama catfish farmers have been allocated $3,121,477 million under the LCP program due to losses suffered during two years of drought. The grant is part of an $11 million LCP package that will go to qualified producers in Alabama, Florida ($34,879), Idaho ($6,968), Mississippi ($8.1 million) and Oklahoma ($5,651).

"We are extremely grateful that this funding is coming through for our catfish farmers," said Sparks. "There has been year after year of unforgiving circumstances in this industry due to natural disasters we have experienced here in Alabama. I hope this money will help keep our catfish farmers in business. They produce the best-tasting and safest product in the world right here in Alabama, and hope to see that continue for a long time."

Mitt Walker, director of the Alabama Catfish Producers (a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation) said that while the USDA did not say when the grant money would become available, he said it would likely be in early 2008.

"The drought in Alabama over the past couple of years has taken a tremendous toll on all segments of agriculture and catfish producers have certainly not been spared," said Walker. "High water temperatures, coupled with lower water levels brought on by the drought and excessive heat, reduced the ability of farmers to feed catfish to optimal levels and resulted in lost weight gains. The Catfish Grant Program will help producers cope with these losses."

In announcing the LCP grant to Alabama, the USDA also approved the following six states to receive funds through the program: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. USDA will distribute funds to the six states after they conduct sign-up and submit requests for payments.

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