GAO again calls U.S. catfish inspection program a waste of money


Sean Murphy, SeafoodSource online editor

Published on
February 12, 2015

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has labeled a controversial catfish inspection program a waste of taxpayer dollars once again, citing the program in its latest “High-Risk Series” sent to congressional committees.

The program, which requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to inspect imports of catfish, in addition to inspections already carried out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has been lambasted by a multitude of U.S. Congressmen, taxpayer watchdog groups, and seafood industry leaders as duplicative and wasteful.

In the latest document published this week, the GAO notes it has called for repeal of the program, added to the 2008 Farm Bill.

“However, the 2014 Farm Bill instead modified these provisions to require the (U.S.) Secretary of Agriculture to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the commissioner of FDA that would ensure that inspection of catfish conducted by (USDA) and FDA are not duplicative. We maintain that such an MOU does not address the fundamental problem, which is that (USDA)’s catfish program, if implemented, would result in duplication of activities and an inefficient use of taxpayer funds.”

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) has been one of the program’s chief critics, charging that special interests, namely the Mississippi domestic catfish industry, are behind the pushing of the program. In a statement today, NFI Spokesman Gavin Gibbons said the latest publication marks the 8th time the GAO has called for action to stop the program.

“We can find no other single Federal program that has been targeted by GAO as many times as USDA catfish,” Gibbons wrote. “The program is a wasteful, special interest handout and attempts to conceal that have failed miserably.”

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