We hope this newsletter finds you both healthy and prosperous in the aftermath of the B.P. Oil Spill.
Last December, you were mailed a very comprehensive newsletter detailing all the actions taken by UCFA on your behalf. To put it simply, through grants, t-shirt sales, and fundraising, we were able to scrape by on financing the mission of UCFA: protecting our way of life. Yet, some of those same issues still remain, so please allow me to revisit and expand upon them.
One of the topics in the December 2012 newsletter outlined how UFCA – working alongside other viable associations – was instrumental in securing safe employment through the VoO program; equal pay for each area; and, most importantly, having VoO payments declared as not part of the future settlements from BP. Even though the final global settlement was inadequate in various aspects, many commercial fishermen who worked the VoO program also received a substantial emergency payment and considerable funds from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) settlement. Throughout those 3 years, UCFA worked tirelessly to keep all the issues in the media and at the fingertips of the local, state, and federal representatives. We know the settlement was not exactly what we advocated for, but trust me, if UCFA working side by side with Louisiana Shrimp Association, Delta Commercial Fisheries, LA. East Bank Oyster Association, BayouKeeper, Association of Family Fishermen, Pointe-au-Chene Native Americans and South East Asian Fisherman’s Association had not stayed engaged and continued pressing the issue, the settlement would have been far worse. Utilizing all our connections we were able to bump up the loss percentage B.P. originally wanted to pay, prevailed on using trip ticket data instead of tax returns, include a hardship process eliminating bad years for some fishermen, prevailed on including subsistence payments for commercial fishermen and most importantly not having your VoO payments deducted from any future settlement. There were over 700 vessels employed by B.P. into the VoO program B.P. paid 626 million, subsequent VoO contract funds went to 6934 individuals at 277 million. A total of 903 million was paid in the VoO program, at least 1/2, 450 million, went to commercial fishermen with no offsets from the B.P. settlements. All of these accomplishments significantly increased the value of your B.P. claim. The VoO payments ranged from 20 thousand to over 350 thousand dollars which is the only reason many of us are still in business today. The program turned out to be a big win for us, the industry, especially since B.P. did not want to hire us in the first place (they did not want that many eyes on their screwup.)
At that time, in December 2012, no one knew who had gotten a good deal from B.P. and who was still struggling as they waited for something better. For this reason, we did not ask for dues until the December 2012 newsletter was distributed. We requested that all members who did well in the Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) program or in the spill settlement to consider paying the 3 years’ worth of past dues, as well as the forthcoming Dues and Defense Fund for 2013. (However, if you are one of the members who has not settled his or her suit, or who has fallen through the cracks, we did not and do not expect a payment.)
The December 2012 newsletter was also loaded with information on how the association protected your rights and got you more money. So imagine our disappointment when only 26 members sent in their annual Dues and Defense Fund. In fact, many of you who worked VoO and received a substantial settlement just sent in the dues for 2013 or did not even renew at all!
Consequently when initially we did not procure enough in dues to even cover the cost of producing and mailing the newsletter, I began thinking, “What The Hell?! We helped the fishermen keep over $450 million dollars in VoO payments (which was not taken out of the final settlement) and I cannot get enough fishermen who benefitted from our efforts to even help fund the association that has been protecting them for over the past two decades.” I really felt as though we had done more than humanly possible to represent the best interests of the industry, and then, right after succeeding, I was faced with having to pull from my own pocket to cover the association’s expenses – which was on top of the 200+ days of meetings for which I have not yet been compensated.
There have been many times over the last 23 years when I considered resigning the UCFA leadership role. The time, energy, and money it has cost a real fisherman to represent his fellow fishermen has been extremely taxing over the last two decades.
Luckily for me and the association, some members got the message, and it did not come to this. A few members paid the past 3 years’ dues, James Kieff Sr. sent an extra $300, Luka Cutura sent in an extra $500, Joe Barbaree contributed $4000, John Blanchard gave an extra $1500, and Michael Fredricks – a skimmer shrimper all the way from Hackberry, LA – donated an extra $5000 to UCFA, as well as $5000 to the Louisiana Shrimp Association (LSA). I called Michael and Joe to thank them personally for giving me the incentive to stay the course. I informed them that with their extra contributions, along with those that others have sent in, we would be able to keep the doors open.
Understand one thing: I was able to get outside help when the public thought we were down and out, but now, thanks to millions of dollars of BP propaganda, fishermen have been branded as “spillionaires.” Consequently, funding to sustain the association will have to come from us. There are no more rabbits or hats to pull them out of, if the fishermen who got all the benefits of our collective work do not step up and commit some time and money, the Association cannot represent you on good will alone.
Included in this letter you will find a list of whom has paid the 2013 Dues. In January 2014, the new funding cycle will begin. If you are not on this list and paid, please call and let me know. I will check it out. If you have made out okay from the settlement process or VoO savings, please consider paying the 2013 Dues and the Defense Fund for the 3 previous years. If you did not receive the 2012 newsletter, or you simply forgot to pay the dues and would like a copy, please call me and I will send you one. If you think UCFA has not done anything to warrant your support and you do not intend to participate, let us know and we will remove you from the mailing list.
Let’s take a historical look at the cost and benefit of being a member of U.C.F.A. If you have been a member for 20 years the most you may have invested would be around $2500.00. Over that last two decades U.C.F.A. sought out and secured numerous shrimp and oyster season extensions, sponsored legislation to 1.) at least keep gill nets for the mullet industry, 2.) allow shrimpers to keep and sell their flounder bycatch, 3.) expand the state oyster grounds, 4.) eliminated the need for an out of state transport license, 5.) helped secure Katrina, Ike, and Gustav disaster funding, 6.) got the original one sided B.P. VoO contract thrown out, 7.) initiated the push for the anti-dumping petition (for shrimp), 8.) worked with L.S.A. to secure the TAA funding, 9.) the B.P. campaign mentioned on the first page, 10.) assisted in securing Catholic Charities Grant for the industry, 11.) assisted in getting the Back on the Water Grant program up and running, 12.) assisted with the Louisiana WorkForce Grant program.
If you were a real fishermen member, I guarantee you got a hell of a lot for your $2500.00 investment. The sad note is that the guy right next to you got as much as you without putting up his share. Right now you have a chance to take some of your tax liability – redirect it to enable your trade association to potentially get you some more money. Hopefully that guy next to you who has been sitting on the sidelines for the past 20 years will suit up and become part of the team. Whatever money contributed to the association is tax deductible as a business expense. You may also choose to donate to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), which is also tax-deductible as a charitable donation(tax ID #72-1051343). LEAN has been a loyal partner in supporting the industry and has pledged to continue its support of UCFA. Think about it: utilize some of your tax liability to help perpetuate your own industry. It’s a potential triple win, and it’s very smart business.
We do not know how much each of you made in the VoO program or settlement process, or how much taxes you already paid. However you do, if you VoO’ed you know exactly how much our efforts saved you. I guarantee if we had not challenged B.P. at every turn and used our political clout, your VoO payment would have been part of the settlement. We are hoping this letter makes you look at it from the same perspective as Michael Fredricks or Joe Barbaree or the others who gave extra. Give a little back to the ones who helped you get what you received.
If you would like to discuss any of these issues, just give me a call.
Letter from Michael Fredricks
I received the long newsletter yesterday. I was glad to hear that the association was still trying to hold together. I have been a member for a long time, and I am grateful for all that the association has done and has attempted to do. I read the article about how UCFA and other fishing groups managed to get BP and Fienberg to agree not to have the VoO payments come out of the future settlements. Thank you; in my case, I would have owed BP $10,000.
I knew that UCFA and LSA were on the front lines for us, so I took that $10,000 and reinvested it in my industry. I gave each association $5,000, putting up my share to help repay y’all for what y’all have already done and what you’ll have to do later on. Please use this money for whatever cause you think is most important.
Thanks for all that you do.
Letter from Joe Barbaree
My Name is Joe Barbaree, I was a shrimper for 28 years. During this time I saw good times and bad times. Much of which I had no control over. In 1998 I heard of an organization called UCFA and was told it was mainly an oyster organization but also had shrimper members. That same year I met George at Mike Cure’s shrimp shed in Bayou Caddy Mississippi. I was trawling alongside George in Mississippi. I found it weird he picked up and left while we were catching shrimp. I later found out he left shrimp to go to a meeting in Alabama and was back trawling for dark. I knew he was one of us. I was convinced that this was an organization I should support. I joined on the spot. I paid the $25 and after asking George how we could do the things he was doing on dues alone, he told me dues alone really wasn’t enough and that they had a Defense Fund to help. I then gave $200 to the Defense Fund. $225 was lot of money for me to turn loose at that time. I have supported UCFA ever since and through the hard work George continues to devote to UCFA I am way ahead of what I put in. Having said this, it amazes me that so many fishermen benefit from all of UCFA’s efforts and have given so little back to sustain the Defense Fund.
Many of you may not know or remember it was George using his connections through U.C.F.A. and the Gulf Council who started the run for the anti-dumping petition against the countries with the pond raised shrimp. At first, the industry did not support him, then everyone wanted to get on board, processors and shrimpers side by side. It is a shame that a certain group wanted it done their way. If we would have followed George’s lead we would have had the tariffs 4 years sooner and at a higher percentage. It really bothers me that with all the millions the processors got in BYRD money that only a few are members. If U.C.F.A. would not have stuck it’s neck out none of us would have gotten a dime. When George decided it would be better to start-up Louisiana Shrimp Association and let both Associations work side by side he out smarted those who were going to crucify him claiming he wanted to be in charge. All George asked for was that those who shrimped just remain U.C.F.A. members at $25.00 per year. Only a handful stayed as members but U.C.F.A. never stopped working for the shrimpers. I wonder how much longer George will continue to fight for us, and if he gives up the fight, who will take his place, will they be as dedicated to us as George has been? Something to think about. I ask shrimpers and oystermen to help keep UCFA in the forefront of battles to come and we all know they will come. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
To all fishermen, may God bless you and your families and your boats afloat.
The man-made BP catastrophe was recently declared as a “disaster of national significance,” and with that declaration, Congress is able to classify the BP payments as tax-exempt. The UCFA board determined the plan and vowed to push this issue for everybody’s benefit.
Last spring we initiated the project at the local level, securing unanimous votes from the parish councils supporting our request for a tax-exempt declaration. (See copy of resolution enclosed.) I have connections in other states whom will follow our lead. Whether or not this movement moves forward is up to you. You know what you paid in taxes from the 2012 or 2013 payments you may have received. I know the smart fishermen took whatever steps they could to pay as little in taxes as possible. If the second round is paid out in 2014 at the same predicted percentage as the first round, many of you will be looking at another substantial tax liability. We ask that you consider contributing to the Tax Exempt Political Action Campaign designed to eliminate our 2014 tax liability.
Look at it like this: our collective actions helped improve on the settlement that kept hundreds of millions of dollars in the fishermen’s hands with the VoO campaign. If we cannot collectively come up with the $1 million dollars needed to help the fishermen (you included) keep another potential $300 million dollars from the tax man, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves. There have been many projects I’ve steered through using UCFA funding, and many times over by using my own money. But this time around, UCFA does not have the funds, and I do not have the time, money, connections, or ability to pull this off on my own.
After I launched the campaign, I received numerous calls from members and non-member fishermen asking if the payments made in 2012 and 2013 would be tax exempted, and how come we did not start the initiative in 2012. My answer was this, “If it were not for the extra donations made by the members mentioned before, we would not have been able to pursue the exemption.” Whether we get to keep all of the second-round funding or not is up to each and every one of you.
At a recent LSA board meeting, I reported on updates concerning the campaign. One of the shrimpers asked, “How much are you asking for?” Another said, “The oyster people should pony up more since they got more.” My answer to them was the same as the answer I gave about the settlement offering: what you choose to contribute is an individual decision. Don’t look left or right, look in the mirror—what is it worth to you? And consider this: if there’s a possibly that you may not have to pay any taxes on the next round, or any subsequent lawsuits for those who opted out of the settlement, wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to put up a little bit of money now to keep the larger sum later of what you’ve been awarded? All the while taking money from the tax man and putting it where it may do some good.
If we are fortunate enough to raise the sufficient funds, we will hire lobbyists and publicists to keep you engaged and informed so that you, your friends, and your family can help us win this battle politically. But, more than anything, we need a commitment from you, as a member, of personal involvement and financial support.
Give George a call or drop him an email with your thoughts on the issue. firstname.lastname@example.org
Large Scale Freshwater Sediment Diversions
Most of you are probably already aware of the implications and effects of the new and improved master plan to restore costal Louisiana. If the state pushes the master plan forward as it is currently written, there will be so much fresh (Mississippi River shit!) water in our estuaries that it will permanently alter your ability to make a living.
George Barisich has been serving on advisory panels for over 20 years trying to educate the state and fed on the real impact of proposed, large-scale diversions. Recently, George and Clint Guidry participated in the framework-development team to help design a restoration program that left the commercial fishing industry intact. Sadly though, that effort became yet another exercise in futility. When it became apparent that the token industry representatives on the team would never sign on to their proposed master plan, we were informed that a plan was already drafted, and that we would be able to see it only a week before it was to be released to the public. Understand they said we could view it—no changes we suggested would be considered.
At the insistence of industry representatives, numerous scoping meetings were held across the state. Over 90% of the public’s comments were against the implementation of large-scale diversions as a major component of the coastal master plan. Nonetheless, Garrett Graves and company continued to praise their plan as the only restoration plan that may work with only marginal impact to both commercial and recreational fishermen. The only positive result of our public criticism of the plan was that it woke up the sleeping giant, i.e. the recreational fisherman and the businesses that make their livings off of what we produce from the estuaries as they now exist.
Captain George Ricks (a charter boat captain and stage singer) and Mike Lane of Rod&Reel.com jumped head first into the fray. The Save Louisiana Coalition was formed with two goals in mind: to derail the proposed large-scale diversions and to persuade the powers that be that dredging would produce a positive result more immediately.
There is an application form for the Save Louisiana Coalition in this newsletter. We encourage you to join. Once again, there is strength in numbers. The industry still has many obstacles it must overcome, but having a strong, well-funded trade association is one of the effective weapons we can maintain in this war for survival.
For those of you whom did not pay the 2013 Dues and Defense Fund, please consider doing so. Membership in any trade association accounts for only 20% collectively of fishermen across all fisheries. If you have any friends or associates who benefitted from any of our efforts over the last 20 years, reach out to them, and share the information you have just read. Who knows; they may finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The UCFA Board
A special thanks goes out to Robert Campo, James Kieff Jr, Henry Martin, Ray Vath, Mike Cure, Glen Mankin, and Dean Blanchard for generous donations of seafood whenever the association needed it.
For Sale / Wanted
Wanted: 12 volt Wood Freeman chain driven auto pilot
call George (504) 439-2013
For Sale: 30ft Aluminum Booms, $1200.00 firm
call George (504) 439-2013