US House votes to ax catfish inspection program

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
July 11, 2013

The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to repeal a catfish inspection program that government watchdog groups have called a waste of money.

The program was first installed into the 2008 Farm Bill. It took responsibility for inspecting imported catfish out of the hands of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and gave it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Proponents at the time said the USDA would be better able to screen imports for toxic chemicals and other contaminants, but opponents have argued that the program was in fact put in place to protect a collection of domestic catfish producers by erecting an unofficial trade barrier to Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam.

Many groups, including the Government Accountability Office and the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), argued that the USDA has already spend millions just to equip itself to inspect catfish, and to date has not inspected a single fish.

Now, the U.S. Congress is working on an update of the bill, and the House Agricultural Committee voted to repeal the program, giving inspection responsibility back to the FDA. With the full house now voting to repeal it, the Senate has to also vote for a repeal to make it law.

Today, NFI Spokesman Gavin Gibbons praised the House for its vote, calling it “more evidence that catfish repeal is a priority in Washington.”

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who sits on the committee and is one of many congressmen opposed to the program, said its repeal will save American taxpayers more than USD 170 million (EUR 130.4 million) over the next 10 years.

"I look forward to the House and Senate working together to iron out the differences in the two versions of the Farm Bill,” she said in a statement.

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