Senate’s fishy farm bill stirs controversy

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catfish Something smells fishy in the Senate’s farm bill: It’s a missing amendment that would have repealed an unnecessary catfish inspection program.

Now a new infographic from the group “Repeal Catfish” hopes to get the word out about this $170 million handout being pushed by special-interest catfish lobbyists. 

click image to zoomCatfish checklist In the infographic, seen to the left, a checklist details what should be important to conferees, including increasing American jobs, supporting American farmers, cutting wasteful spending, and promoting ag exports.

“Conferees who care about American Agriculture will ensure catfish repeal is included in the final Farm Bill,” the inforgraphic urges.

Click the image to the left to see the full infographic or click here to learn more about RepealCatfish.com.

The back story to the amendment – and the uproar – focuses on U.S. catfish farmers. These farmers have been struggling for years, according to National Public Radio. With total acreage of catfish ponds in the country decreasing rapidly, one of the biggest threats facing these farmers is the presence of foreign companies, that dominate 78 percent of the U.S. market for frozen catfish.

In an effort to bolster the domestic industry, congressmen from Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi believe that having more inspectors might help limit imports.  Read more here.

However, to Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., these additional inspectors are unnecessary.

“If the chairman and ranking member have their way, the Farm Bill will soon ban catfish imports for seven years due to “food safety concerns” while USDA organizes a specialized catfish inspection office. During that time, southern catfish farmers become big fish in a much smaller pond – at the taxpayer’s expense,” McCain wrote in a Politco Op-Ed.

“There is no reason for this duplicative program. The program props up the domestic catfish industry by stifling imports and competition and creating burdensome and overlapping regulations, all at the expense of the American consumer,” Shaheen added in a letter posted to SeaCoastOnline.com.

The House farm-only version of the farm bill does include a repeal of the USDA catfish inspection program.



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