U.S. catfish farmers seek answers
America’s farm-raised catfish industry was born in this Hale County town a half century ago. On Thursday, about 175 catfish farmers and processors met here to find way to keep the industry alive.
Most agree serious problems exist.
Higher feed prices, increased foreign competition and fallen consumer demand for catfish have left the catfish producers and processors with more fish and fewer sales.
“We created a perfect storm,” said Donnie Wedgeworth, a Hale County catfish producer.
After seeing sales of domestic farm-raised catfish decline for more than five years, catfish growers who weathered some challenging times had a boom year in 2011.
Catfish processing plants could not get enough of the pond-raised fish to meet demand in 2011, said Thed Spree, president of the West Alabama Catfish Producers Association.
“We (catfish farmers) had been living off of 5 to 10 cents a pound at times for our catfish, and last year the price went up to USD 1 to USD 1.80 a pound.”