Maine probably will have a newly organized lobster marketing and promotion group by 2014, but it still isn’t clear exactly how lobstermen, dealers and processors will be tapped for the industry’s portion of a projected budget of $13 million, spread over the next five years.
The marketing effort has garnered support from the state in legislation for a potential allocation of $1 million for its first year of promotional and marketing work, aimed at raising the price of lobster at the docks.
That funding proposal has been passed by both the House and the Senate, and now awaits final passage in the Senate on their appropriations table, said Rep. Walter Kumiega, D-Deer Isle. It may or may not receive funding from that source, he said.
Lawmakers now are trying to put finishing touches on a thoroughly vetted measure that would allocate another $1 million to the marketing effort in the first year, $2 million in the second and $3 million in each of the next three years.
The revenue would come from fees tied to licenses covering every sector of the lobster industry, including harvesters, dealers, processors and transporters.
Legislators on the Marine Resources Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to send an amended version of the original proposal, L.D. 486, to the Legislature with a recommendation to pass it.
Lawmakers still are debating the details of how to divvy up the cost of the marketing and promotions collaborative, as the quasi-public marketing organization would be known.
Most lobstermen can expect to pay about double what they now pay for licenses, said Rep. Wayne Parry, R-Arundel, a lobsterman.
Lawmakers are still struggling with how to split the costs among the remaining sectors of the lobster industry.
The committee agreed in theory to have the Department of Marine Resources return May 22 with the final language of the bill, including cost allocations for members to review one last time.
“And then we’ll see,” said Rep. Jeremy Saxton, D- Harpswell. “And then we’ll see.”
If lawmakers are still not satisfied with the fee schedule, the committee can vote to reconsider Wednesday’s vote and amend the proposal again.
Or they can table the measure into eternity, as one member quipped.
“If they just can’t stand it,” said Rep. Windol Weaver, R-York, with a laugh.
The remaining hurdle is to find an equitable way to allot the costs to dealers, whose enterprises vary substantially in size and sales.
Committee members balked at finalizing numbers Wednesday before they could see a tiered fee system that would take into account the size of a dealer’s operations.
The concern reflects an attempt to protect smaller dealers from having to pay the same fees as large operations, said Parry.
“This (legislation) is completely different from anything else we’ve voted on,” said Saxton. “It’s not our money. We should not be forcing people to (do this) just because we think it’s a good idea for them.”
The new fee structure, if it is passed by the Legislature, would take effect in 2014.
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Correction: This story was revised at 12:26 p.m., May 16, 2013, to correctly spell the name of Rep. Jeremy Saxton, D- Harpswell, and to identify the Joint Committee on Marine Resources as the panel that voted unanimously to send an amended version of L.D. 486 to the Legislature with a recommendation to pass it.
Because of incorrect information provided to the Press Herald, the story failed to note that a proposed $1 million appropriation for the promotion collaborative is awaiting final passage in the Senate.