Oyster purveyors will get a boost from the county

Since their first harvest in 2017, Southold Bay Oysters co-owner Dave Daly has been aware of what he feels is an essential flaw in the permitting process they must follow in order to shuck at local farmers markets, wineries and street fairs.

“We realized as soon as we went through the process how restrictive it was,” Mr. Daly said.

Under current regulations, shellfish purveyors are required to obtain a $95 permit that’s valid for just 14 days and covers them for only a single event at one location. This effectively prevents them from participating in recurring events, such as weekly farmers markets.

“Every summer, we see all of these wonderful events and farmers markets pop up but unfortunately oyster farmers have not really been able to participate because all of the requirements and expenses associated with the permit process,” he explained. “Sometimes, it’s not worth it to show up.”

Last year, Mr. Daly and other shellfish farmers began meeting with county officials, who agreed the process of obtaining permits should be more reflective of how they are actually used.

New legislation proposed last Monday by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone would eliminate permits for individual events and instead offer an annual permit for $95. Fees for the annual permit would be waived for the first two years, officials said.

“Who knew there was such an onerous permitting process?” Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said last Thursday. “They’re serving raw shellfish, so there’s standards they have to meet for safety reasons, but to have one permit for the whole year is a much better system.” He added that he’s happy the farmers reached out about their concern.

Mr. Bellone, who plans to introduce formal legislation next month, said the measure will promote an important Long Island tradition. “Shellfish farming has been an important part of Long Island’s heritage for decades and plays an important role in cleaning our waterways and promoting economic activity,” he said in a statement. “The introduction of this legislation will go a long way in removing barriers that have made it difficult for our farmers to sell and market their locally sourced products.”

Rob Carpenter, administrative director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said that removing the red tape will expand opportunities for farmers. “Allowing our farmers and bay people to be successful will keep jobs, increase sales tax revenue and continue all the associated environmental benefits the industry does for Long Island residents and our waters,” he said.

Mr. Daly is thrilled that the change will take effect so soon.

“I wasn’t going to give up, because this is something that prevents oyster farmers from being profitable, especially in the early years. The couple of hundred dollars here and there can be a significant revenue,” he said.

With spring’s arrival, Mr. Daly said they are already eyeing several events to attend. “These pop-ups are a missing piece,” he said. “Now, hopefully, we’ll be able to see oyster farmers selling directly to customers all over the North Fork.”

Photo caption: Legislator Al Krupski speaks at a press conference alongside County Executive Steve Bellone. (Courtesy photo)

[email protected]