USDA Seafood Regulation Continues its Tenure as Washington’s Most Problematic Program.


The transfer of catfish regulation from FDA (which regulates all other fish and seafood) to USDA, has been called “unconscionable and immoral” for its overt waste and duplication. The USDA catfish program has been highlighted no fewer than 10 times by the Government Accountability Office as a program that should be done away with. Separately, the House and Senate have voted to repeal USDA seafood regulation, and keep the regulation of all fish, including catfish, at FDA.

Sneaky moves on catfish by Southern lawmakers could spark trade war with Vietnam

Inspection carve-out contracted equivalence timetable seen as protectionist by critics

Retaliatory trade steps by Vietnam would hurt more than aquaculture. Cotton, wheat and other grains, pork, soybeans, beef, poultry, eggs and fruit could get caught up in tariffs.
Farmers from Texas to Oregon and California to Georgia, who export tens of millions of dollars worth of their harvest to Vietnam annually, could become collateral damage.

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New Senate Letter highlights importance of keeping fish at FDA to protect U.S. Ag Exports.

Historically, who has been opposed to switching the regulation of catfish from FDA, to USDA?

Yet… the program prevailed and the regulation of catfish is now transferred to USDA, while FDA continues to regulate all seafood. And, the saga of a program ten years in the making and tens of millions of wasted tax dollars, all to benefit Senator Thad Cochran’s pet project, is not over. In fact, the greed and hubris that brought about this program may just be looking to expand it at the expense of taxpayers, American farmers and our food safety system.

Concern Over Retaliation

The USDA catfish program is clearly an illegal trade barrier that the Wall Street Journal says, “has American exporters worried about retaliation.” And U.S. Agriculture exporters should be worried as the bottom-feeding catfish lobby continues to look towards expanding a wasteful program as it targets more of its competition, like tilapia:

“Jim Steeby, Extension fisheries specialist at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville, Miss., said increasing imports of catfish and whitefish such as tilapia are putting pressure on catfish sales.” – Delta Farm Press 09.02.09
“Imported tilapia has become another challenger to US catfish industry, officials say.”—Associated Press 06.26.09

Meanwhile the fake food safety scare used by the catfish lobby as part of this now notorious boondoggle has been discredited by even the former Food Safety Czar of both USDA and FDA:

“No one was concerned about the safety of catfish until Southern catfish interests determined the USDA regulatory system would effectively block its imported competition at the border. This restriction is based on regulatory differences between USDA and FDA that does not make the product safer, just more difficult to import.” – Dr. David Acheson