US Senator John Kennedy introduces bill to boost SIMP audits

A photo of U.S. Sen. John Kennedy.

U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) has introduced legislation that would provide an additional USD 36 million (EUR 33 million) for audits of imported shrimp and red snapper under the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP).

“Big seafood exporters, such as India and Ecuador, are flooding America’s markets with illegal shrimp and selling it for cheaper than quality Gulf shrimp caught right here at home,” Kennedy said. “In order to serve American consumers and protect jobs, the U.S. must conduct better inspections on imports – and that is what my bill would help do.”

Established in 2016, SIMP requires importers to provide detailed information at U.S. ports for 13 select species or species groups. The program aims to help NOAA Fisheries crack down on imported seafood products that don’t comply with U.S. regulations.

NOAA’s SIMP audit team was able to conduct 1,131 investigations in fiscal year 2020 with six full-time auditors. Those audits covered just 1 percent of all SIMP imports for that fiscal year; 40 percent of those audits were for shrimp products, Kennedy noted, with 33 percent of those products found to be in noncompliance.

“Let me just be blunt – some of this product is unsafe. It’ll make you grow an extra ear,” Kennedy said. “That’s why we have SIMP.”

Kennedy’s bill would take USD 36 million (EUR 33 million) from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) for the additional SIMP audits. That would allow the audit team to investigate 10 percent of imports that fall under SIMP instead of just 1 percent, Kennedy claimed.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill from immediate passage, arguing that cutting IRS funding would hurt many Americans.

“The amendment offered by the senator from Louisiana will hurt honest taxpayers and will help wealthy tax cheats,” U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said in opposing the bill.

The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Finance Committee for further consideration.

The domestic shrimp sector and some U.S. lawmakers have pushed for the federal government to take action against cheap imported shrimp, which they claim is putting American shrimpers and processors out of business.

The U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce recently launched investigations into whether the U.S. should impose antidumping and countervailing duties on frozen warmwater shrimp imports from Ecuador, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam following a petition from the American Shrimp Processors Association. U.S. shrimping groups have also asked local communities and governments to declare an emergency over imported shrimp in an effort to pressure the federal government into taking action.

Federal lawmakers have also introduced legislation to protect the domestic shrimp sector from foreign competition. U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) introduced a bill to neutralize India’s subsidization of its shrimp sector, while other senators have introduced a bill that would take the money collected from shrimp tariffs and distribute it to communities dependent on seafood.

Kennedy’s legislation comes in the wake of NOAA’s decision to withdraw its proposal for expanding SIMP in November 2023 following extensive public feedback. While nonprofits and lawmakers have called for expanding SIMP, many argued that NOAA’s proposal did not go far enough.

Photo courtesy of the Office of U.S. Senator John Kennedy


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