Apr 2, 2024 - Business

$2M federal loans available for restaurants and farmers hurt by crawfish's awful year

Photo shows dry cracked earth in what should be a crawfish farm.

Farmer Chad Hanks walks by dry, cracked earth on his farm where he usually grows crawfish on Oct. 10, 2023, in Kaplan. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Louisiana's crawfish industry is feeling the pinch after months of drought, extreme heat and then a deep freeze.

Why it matters: The crawfish industry contributes more than $300 million to the state's economy annually.

  • "When people are making money, they are spending money," Democratic Congressman Troy Carter tells Axios.

The big picture: The Small Business Administration is offering businesses up to $2 million in low-interest loans to help make ends meet.

  • They are available to anyone who touches the crawfish from the water to the point of sale, Carter says. That includes restaurants, grocery stores, farmers and corner stores.
  • Carter is helping coordinate workshops this week across south Louisiana to help businesses fill out the loan paperwork.

By the numbers: Louisiana is the country's No. 1 crawfish producer, according to the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

  • It has 1,000+ crawfish fishermen, 1,300+ crawfish farmers and thousands of businesses that boil and serve crawdads.

Catch up quick: 2023 was one of New Orleans' driest years in nearly eight decades, according to the National Weather Service.

  • Louisiana also had its hottest summer on record, and several cities, including New Orleans, broke their daily heat records.
  • The weather dried out the soil where crawfish burrow, potentially killing them, the AP reports.

Threat level: LSU AgCenter's preliminary estimates say the potential losses to the state's crawfish industry could be nearly $140 million.

Photo shows two people eating boiled crawfish out of bags during a picnic.
It's common to see New Orleanians with a bag of crawfish at the park this time of year. Photo by Claire Bangser/AFP

Meanwhile, it's also making crawfish more expensive and harder to find for consumers.

State of play: Gov. Jeff Landry issued a disaster declaration for the crawfish industry on March 6.

  • "The crawfish industry needs all the support it can get right now," his statement said, adding that the drought was affecting "our way of life."
  • The declaration unlocks federal help for businesses.

How it works: Businesses need to show economic injury in order to qualify for a loan, SBA spokesman Susheel Kumar tells Axios.

  • There's an event Tuesday in Reserve, Wednesday in New Orleans and Thursday in Baton Rouge where people can meet with SBA staffers to answer questions. (Details)
  • Business owners need to bring a valid ID, at least two years of tax returns and any other financial documents that show economic harm.
  • The money can be used to pay normal operating expenses such as fixed debts, payroll and accounts payable, Kumar says.

Zoom in: The interest rate is 4% for small businesses and 2.375% for nonprofits on the 30-year loans, SBA says.

What's next: Apply online for a federal loan. For more help, call (800) 659-2955 or email [email protected].

  • The deadline is Dec. 23.

Lagniappe: Carter says his favorite place for boiled crawfish in metro New Orleans is Perino's Boiling Pot in Harvey.

Go deeper: 7 New Orleans-area restaurants boiling crawfish.

Photo shows several sacks of crawfish in the back of a pickup truck.
Mais La Seafood is a popup in New Orleans that sells boiled crawfish.Photo: Claire Bangser/AFP via Getty Images
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