US catfish program repeal makes headway

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
May 15, 2013

The House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday approved the USD 940 billion 2013 Farm Bill, which includes a number of amendments, including eliminating the duplicative USDA catfish inspection program.  

If the measure passes the full house, it will mean the end of a program that critics have called a waste of government money.

"It's a good first step," said Steve Walsh, a spokesman for Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R–Mo.). Hartzler has been one of many congressmen and senators who have opposed the program. Hartzler proposed the amendment to the committee, which Walsh said passed by a vote of 31-15.

The Farm Bill, first passed in 2008, originally took responsibility for inspecting catfish imports away from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and gave it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Proponents argued that this would help make imports from countries such as Vietnam safer, but critics argued that the measure is designed to block imports, not protect public health. Further, critics say the USDA is not equipped to inspect seafood, and has wasted money just getting up to speed, and the waste will only get worse if nothing is done. According to Hartzler, the amendment eliminating the USDA inspection program will save U.S. taxpayers USD 160 million.

The National Fisheries Institute (NFI) congratulated the committee on the passage of the 2013 Farm Bill, stating “to move such a complex piece of legislation, balancing investments that support American Farmers and related food industries with necessary cost saving is a major accomplishment.”

“NFI applauds the committee for repealing the duplicative USDA catfish inspection program. The committee chose sound fiscal policy and a commitment to grow rural economies by protecting trading opportunities in export markets for American farm products,” said NFI.

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