On February 8, U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran issued a letter stating that catfish producers in Mississippi and other states are being damaged by the U.S. Department of Commerce not putting enough effort into stemming a surplus of imported fish products.

According to Senator Cochran’s website, “Cochran and Wicker have signed a letter to acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank urging her to enforce an antidumping order against frozen fillets from Vietnam.”  A copy of the letter is available here

According to the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, “Catfish is the leading aquaculture industry in the United States.”  “Commercial catfish production generates over 46 percent of the value of aquaculture production in the United States.”

In 2002, Catfish Farmers of America brought an anti-dumping petition to the U.S. International Trade Commission. The ITC held a unanimous vote to send it on to the U.S. Department of Commerce for further study.

Delta Farm Press  reports, “When catfish prices began to dip a few years ago, farmers began looking to improperly labeled Vietnamese imports as the root cause.”  Virginia Foot, president of the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council, says, “I think it’s a legitimate question about whether the market was just saturated or if the Vietnamese fish really did make that big of an impact.”

Cochran says the downfall of the American Catfish Industry correlates to Commerce Department efforts that have granted U.S. markets “to be flooded with imported alternatives.”

Wicker says, “The catfish industry is an important part of Mississippi’s economy, and the Commerce Department should use all available tools to prevent unfair imports.”  “American producers deserve to compete on a level playing field.”

Senator Cochran’s website also states, “The letter to Blank points out that Vietnamese imports have tripled since 2008 and now account for more than 75 percent of the U.S. market.”

According to United States Department of Agriculture, since 2007, U.S catfish processors have suffered more than a 35 percent drop in pounds of frozen fillets sold.  USDA statistics also reveal that since an antidumping tariff was filed, U.S catfish producers’ market share has gone from 80 percent to 20 percent.

In addition to Senators Cochran and Wicker, the letter was also signed by Senators Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), John Boozman (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Vitter (La.).