Shrimp Farm Comes to MN Despite Dropped Subsidy

Remember the subsidy for an indoor shrimp farm that was floated before being quickly sunk as word leaked out at the Minnesota Legislature this year?  Our report could have been mistaken for The Onion.

Shrimp for 69 cents a pound anyone? That would be quite a bargain for sea food lovers. But not so much for taxpayers. Yet that’s how much some legislators want Minnesotans to pay in order to get shrimp farming off the ground in the state—69 cents a pound.

But it seems there’s life for entrepreneurs who are denied taxpayer funds and have to make it on their own after all.

Shrimp FarmersThe tru Shrimp Co. just announced plans to open a $50 million shrimp production facility in Luverne, Minnesota and a shrimp hatchery in nearby Marshall, Minnesota.  Michael Ziebell, an executive who pitched legislators for the shrimp subsidy just a few weeks earlier, made the announcement.

“What is happening in Minnesota has not been done anywhere in the world. We are creating an industry that will supply the world with safe, clean and abundant shrimp. There are 1.6 billion lb. of shrimp consumed annually in the U.S., and 80% of it is imported, largely from Southeast Asia. The facilities in Marshall and Luverne will produce the most natural shrimp possible using a sustainable, antibiotic-free and environmentally responsible approach,” Ziebell said.

Lawmakers from southwestern Minnesota introduced a bill to appropriate up to $5 million annually to get the state’s first ever shrimp farm off the ground. Word of the not-so-shrimp-sized subsidy quickly gained momentum as a symbol of out of touch legislators and lobbyists.

Shrimp farms in the heartland may or may not be a good idea. But since when do conservatives obligate taxpayers to be in the business of funding start-up industries?

Lawmakers should play a vital role in attracting entrepreneurs and improving the state’s business climate. Not by doling out tax dollars but by reducing expensive regulations and taxes that make Minnesota less competitive than our neighboring states.

It didn’t help that the investors with their tin cup out had projected a potential 99 percent return on investment by the third year of production. Moreover, the start-up company is associated with a multinational ag and aquaculture company that hardly needed taxpayer funds as venture capital.

An economic study by the University of Minnesota concluded the industry will contribute more than $48 million to the local economy, including a major boost to farmers who produce feed pellets for the shrimp. All without an up to $5 million a year state taxpayer subsidy–a true win-win.

“As trū Shrimp continues to grow and develop, Marshall will also grow. It’s a rare opportunity to become the center of a new source of protein production. Immediate construction of the shrimp hatchery and renovation of an existing processing facility is a significant economic driver for Marshall,” [Marshall Economic Development Authority Director Cal] Brink said.