FILE - Maine Lobstermen 8-4-2017

Lobstermen sort their catch on the docks Aug. 4, 2017, on Vinalhaven Island, Maine.

(The Center Square) – Lobster fishermen have started applying for a portion of a $527 million relief program recently unveiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help offset losses incurred due to China’s new tariff policies.

Maine’s lobster industry could qualify for as much as $50 million, the Portland Press Herald reported. The Seafood Trade Relief Program (STRP) is paying 50 cents for every pound of lobster; in 2019, Maine landed roughly 100 million pounds.

The Notice of Funds Availability notes President Donald Trump’s June 24 memorandum, “Protecting the United States Lobster Industry,” directs the USDA to consider appropriate action to provide assistance to eligible U.S. commercial fishermen whose business has been impacted by foreign government trade actions that have led to the loss of exports.

“Many nations have not played by the rules for a long time, and President Trump is the first president to stand up to them and send a clear message that the United States will no longer tolerate unfair trade practices,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release. “The Seafood Trade Relief Program ensures fishermen and other U.S. producers will not stand alone in facing unjustified retaliatory tariffs while President Trump continues working to solidify better and stronger trade deals around the globe.”

The application process for licensed commercial fishermen started Monday and concludes Dec. 14.

People can apply through their local Farm Service Agency; requirements include proof of their 2019 landings of an impacted species, adjusted gross income, tax ID and direct deposit information. Individual payouts are limited to $250,000.

Patrice McCarron, director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, thanked the Trump administration and Maine’s congressional delegation in a statement last week, the Herald reported.

“Maine’s hardworking lobstermen did not create these trade issues, but for too long, have had to live with the consequences,” McCarron said. “Lobstermen have been doing all they can to keep their businesses viable only to be met with weakened markets in 2020 due to the pandemic. Federal relief will help keep Maine’s fishermen solvent so they may continue following their proud traditions.”