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Trump victory brings hope for shrimpers

November 16, 2016
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Roger Schmall's shrimp boat engine lay in pieces on his deck.

After the last one, which cost $35,000 came apart after only one trip out to sea, he's decided to rebuild one himself to make sure it's done right. Engines usually last 8 to 10 years, but he got a bad one, he said. He's just got one boat these days, the Kayden Nicole, so his livelihood is tied to a working engine.

Schmall's spent the last 34 years working in the industry, and one of the few left of his ilk.

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Roger Schmall, one of a shrinking number of independent shrimpers, said he can remember when San Carlos Island's coast was lined with commercial boats at every dock. There aren't as many in the business now, he said.

"There's not too many independent guys left anymore," he said. "Most of them gave up when the trade deals happened. I stuck with it."

Schmall is one of many local shrimpers who were hit hard when the U.S. began opening up to international trade through deals like the North American Trade Act (NAFTA), passed in 1994.

While international trading provides a benefit for some areas of the country, local producers like Schmall felt the hit: suddenly, imported shrimp brought down prices while operating costs increased. Other countries don't have the same regulations about their food, either, Schmall said: while some countries use chemicals and fillers to make low-quality shrimp bigger, American producers are held to a higher standard.

During his campaign and in his 100 day plan which he outlined in his speech at Gettysburg in October, President Elect Donald Trump pledged to withdraw, or at least substantially change, some of the U.S.'s deals with other countries. His campaign website lists a seven-point plan to rebuild the American economy, which includes withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and immediately re-negotiating the terms of NAFTA and withdrawing if the trade partners will not agree. His 100-day plan also states his intention to direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to "identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers" and end such abuses.

"I hope (the election) turned out good for everybody," Schmall said. "I hope Trump does what he said about NAFTA."

Schmall, who is 55, has never voted before. But this year, he cast his ballot for the first time ever for Trump.

"There was negative press for both," he said. "I felt that if anyone was going to make a change, it was going to be him... So I decided to vote this year."

Schmall isn't alone in his hope for change. Rick Kalliainen, who runs a fish house for Trico Shrimp Company, echoed Schmall's sentiment about the president elect's promises on trade.

"If he does do it, it would be good for this county," he said.

Kalliainen picked up the fishing trade from his father, who is 83 and still fishing commerically. Kalliainen remembers a time when young men, such as himself, wanted to be in the shrimp business because it paid well.

"You used to get a new boat every 10 years," he said, adding that you knew who a shrimper was because they would get a new truck every year, too. "Now, boats are 30 years old."

Schmall has one of the three final wood shrimp boats produced in St. Augustine - it's 37 years old.

Kalliainen tried to get his son into the business, but young men aren't coming into the industry anymore - it's not as profitable as it used to be.

"It's dying," he said. "I think changed regulations would help. I think (Trump) will do it."

Some local shrimpers aren't the only ones hopeful for a change under the Trump presidency. Maria Stevens, of Maria's Smokehouse on San Carlos Boulevard, has been an avid Trump supporter, displaying her candidate on her restaurant's billboard and welcoming a mobile Trump shop to set up in her parking lot for a few days to sell merchandise. She hopes Trump can improve the economy.

"Maybe people will start working again, if the economy gets back," she said. "With our jobs, people cannot afford to go out to eat."

As a small business owner herself, she said she would like to see more small businesses grow and create a job base, especially in Florida where many businesses are dependent on tourism. Her restaurant opened in 1948 - she said she's seen the good and the bad in politics, and now it's time to get the country back together.

"Now we need to give the Democrats a hug and reassure them," she said. "We need to work and love each other, and carry the flag all the way to the end."

Florida remains a red state

Republicans won the ticket throughout Florida, both on the national, state and local levels.

Marco Rubio, the Republican incumbent for Senate, defeated Patrick Murphy and returned to his seat in the Senate after failing to win the presidential primaries in the Republican primary in March.

Florida State Representative for District 76, Ray Rodrigues, also will return to Tallahassee after defeating No Party Affiliate Charles Messina on Tuesday's election.

Now in his second term, Rodrigues said he plans to focus on his campaign platform. Rodrigues backed Amendment 4 passed during the primary, the amendment removing tax barriers for solar power in residential, industrial and commercial property values and says he will continue to work to implement than amendment.

Within Lee County, Rodrigues wants to help the county acquire the necessary funding to preserve Edison Farms, almost 4,000 acres of environmentally-sensitive land that lies between Estero and Bonita Springs.

"That land is critical for water quality," he said.

Rodrigues was also named the majority House leader.

In Lee County, Republican incumbents Larry Kiker, District 3, and Frank Mann, District 5, will also hold the status quo. Both were re-elected Nov. 8; Kiker faced write-in Eli Zonana and Mann faced Democrat Diane Zigrossi and No Party Affiliate Sonny Haas.

Florida went red for the presidential election as well, swinging the numbers to Trump's favor.

"I stayed up until the wee early morning, that part was exciting," Kiker said. "Hopefully the things he can change can work its way down to the local level."



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