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NMC Helps with Formation of Local Aquatic Farmers Group (January 19, 2010)

Aquatic farmers on the island of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota recently met with aquaculture experts from the Northern Marianas College to discuss the formation of a cooperative among aquatic farmers that would help individual local farmers cut costs and increase their exports.

The group of farmers, whose proposed union name is the CNMI Aquaculture Producers Association (APA), met with Rota and Tinian participants through a conference call in the NMC Cooperative Research Extension and Education Service (CREES) conference room. Once formed, the APA aims to centralize the marketing and branding of stock, establish product quality standards (size, weight, color), and the possibly produce feeds on-island.

Several farmers have already been selected for ad hoc committee to create the APA bylaws. These individuals include (Saipan) John Hosono, James Matsumoto, Mel Catalma, (Rota) Nicolas Songsong, and (Tinian) Melvin Crisostomo.

Other topics discussed during the meeting were the concerns facing local aquatic farmers, such as CUC water rates, cost of feed locally, marketing opportunities abroad, and available federal grants.

“All the necessary grants, technology, and expertise are available to aquatic farmers in the CNMI,” said NMC aquaculture extension agent Michael Ogo. “All that was needed was an organization of private citizens to take advantage of these resources.”

Some of the grants available to farmers in the CNMI include the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Energy for America Program, which will fund energy-saving improvement projects, and the Small, Socially-Disadvantaged Producer Grant Program, which will provide funds for technical assistance.

“Given the CNMI’s water resources, tropical environment, and proximity to key markets, we’ve always realized that there are significant economic opportunities for the local aquaculture industry,” said Tee Abraham, NMC Dean of Community Programs and Services. “We will continue to support efforts like the APA and other activities to build capacity and expand aquacultural activities in the CNMI.”

CREES’ staff also vowed to continue to support APA members through various trainings and workshops, which will be scheduled during the coming months. A Tilapia Management Practices workshop has already been scheduled for March 23, 2010. The College will release details about the seminar within the next few weeks.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to build up the aquaculture industry, we will continue to make ourselves and our resources available to assist in any way we can,” Ogo added.

“We are pleased to see that many aquatic farmers are taking the initiative to focus their energies on a collective effort to diminish economical pressures facing the growing aquaculture industry,” said NMC Interim President Lorraine T. Cabrera.

Individuals interested in entering the aquaculture industry or gaining membership into the APA should call Michael Ogo at 234-5498 ext. 1728 or e-mail [email protected].

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