SSA Sues U.S. Customs Over Tariff Distribution
The U.S. Court of International Trade on Nov. 15 temporarily suspended distribution of fiscal 2008 Byrd money to domestic shrimp fishermen and processors after the Southern Shrimp Alliance sued U.S. Customs and Border Protection earlier this month.
The conflict stems from excessive and fraudulent claims some Byrd money recipients made in fiscal 2006 and 2007. At the request of the SSA, Customs conducted post-distribution verifications for 58 claimants during the two-year period.
But Customs hasn't publicly disclosed the results of the verifications nor has the agency indicated whether it has conducted any verifications for fiscal 2007, according to the SSA. Several claims were thousands of times higher in fiscal 2007 than in fiscal 2006, says the SSA.
"Customs' unwillingness or inability to significantly improve [distribution of Byrd money] has confirmed the SSA's belief that the program is not benefiting the domestic shrimp industry as a whole," says the SSA. "The SSA is committed to achieving a more equitable distribution of" Byrd money.
Of the nearly $140 million in Byrd money distributed to domestic shrimp fishermen and processors over the last two years, nearly 80 percent, or $108.5 million, has been distributed to less than 10 percent of total claimants, and "it is likely that this problem has worsened for fiscal 2008," says the SSA.
Named after its author, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, the amendment allows for the distribution of tariffs to industry. The SSA filed an antidumping petition in late 2003 that resulted in tariffs on U.S. shrimp imports from six countries - Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, Ecuador and Brazil - in early 2005.