US Senate funds $2m for Young Fishermen’s Development program

Congress cuts loose first ever funds for training/enabling America's future fishermen.

by | August 22, 2022

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Farming programs date back to the 1800s; none for US fishermen

Kids going fishing at Kodiak, AK

For decades the US government has funded workforce development programs to help train young farmers and ranchers, even fish farmers.  

Farmer education for adult and young audiences in the US can be traced back to the advent of the 1862 and 1890 Morrill Land-Grant Acts, according to the USDA.

It wasn’t until 2009 that the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 appropriated $75 million for FY 2009 to 2012 to develop and offer education, training, outreach and mentoring programs to enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers.

The nation’s fishermen have long been hoping for a similar helping hand from Uncle Sam.

It appears that Congress is finally poised to do so with $2 million in funding for FY23 okayed by the US Senate earlier this month.

$17.5 million for farmers vs. $2 million for fishermen

Fishing groups applauded the bipartisan pat on the back, despite the disheartening drop in the bucket for training future ‘farmers of the sea.’

For example, there are 349 training programs across the nation to help young farmers enter or thrive in agriculture, but only 14 such training programs to help young fishermen, reported the Alaska Beacon, citing a study by NOAA Fisheries.

The money gap is also jaw dropping.

“While the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2021 provided $17.5 million for its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and $7.2 billion in Farm Service Administration ownership and operations loans, NOAA provided $2 million in funds through the Young Fishermen’s Development Act, a bill sponsored by the late Rep. Don Young of Alaska, and $124 million in its fisheries finance loan program,” the Beacon wrote.

Here is the full press release from August 2, 2022


Last week the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) applauded the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee for allocating $2,000,000 in funding to the Young Fishermen’s Development Grant Program for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). The FCC thanks Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for their strong support within their roles on the Senate Appropriations Committee. We also thank Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) for leading the FY23 Senate request, along with fellow champions Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Angus King (I-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

According to Ben Martens, Executive Director of FCC member Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, “A fully funded Young Fishermen’s Development Program means that we can give the next generation of fishermen in places like Maine the tools they need to continue to feed our communities fresh, healthy, delicious seafood and keep our working waterfronts working.”

The Young Fishermen’s Development Program is a top priority for the FCC, who first proposed the idea in 2015. Since its inception, the FCC has worked diligently alongside our congressional champions to build support for the program and its authorizing legislation, The Young Fishermen’s Development Act, which was enacted on January 5, 2021 (P.L. 116-289).

“We are thrilled to see the Young Fishermen’s Development Program fully funded in the Senate FY23 CJS budget and deeply appreciate the leadership of Alaska’s delegation on this issue,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, a Fishing Communities Coalition member. “Our young fishermen face ever growing challenges with a changing climate and a rapidly evolving industry. Fully funding this vital program will support their success.”

The Young Fishermen’s Development Program is a workforce development grant program to educate, train, and mentor young and beginning commercial fishermen. This program is a first-of-its-kind national program, following in the footsteps of numerous successful regional-level efforts, many of which were spearheaded by FCC member organizations.  

According to Eric Brazer, Deputy Director of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, “The Gulf of Mexico is associated with some of the U.S.’s favorite seafood – from your Mississippi shrimp to your Florida grouper and snapper. We’ve worked hard to provide job security for our commercial fishing businesses and food security for our coastal communities, and we’re excited to see the Senate prioritize a path forward to support the next generation of commercial fishermen leaders.”

This news follows action last month by the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, which also included funding for the program in the FY23 CJS report. As Congress stands poised to break for August recess, the FCC looks forward to working with House and Senate champions and appropriators this fall to ensure this important, timely program is fully funded for FY23. Doing so will better ensure the U.S.’s economically, historically, and culturally important commercial fishing industry prospers for generations to come.

“This is the first of many important steps needed to ensure that upcoming generations can maintain direct access to the means of production in coastal food systems,” said Marissa Wilson, Executive Director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, an FCC member. “Small-boat harvest of wild fish is an important tradition with values richer than money. Investing in this lifeway is vital to the wellness of communities along and inland of the nation’s 95,000 miles of coastline.”

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.


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