Posted August 19, 2013
While much of the national discussion about the farm bill is focused on the nutrition title and the next possible steps in the U.S. House following August recess, there are other important issues at play. One such issue stirring up controversy is a catfish inspection program created through the 2008 farm bill.
Politicoreports that while the program is small, it has caused controversy because it is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), unlike other seafood inspections which are under the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the Politico article, available here, “catfish farmers want the USDA involved because its much tougher regulatory standards could stymie imports of” a similar Vietnamese fish. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeanne Shanheen (D-NH) sent a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), arguing that the program is “duplicative and wasteful” and should be eliminated.
According to the New York Times, the USDA has “spent $20 million to set up the catfish inspection office, which has a staff of four” and it expects “to spend about $14 million a year to run it” while the FDA “spends about $700,000 a year on its existing office.” Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), top-ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, succeeded in placing the inspection program in the 2008 farm bill and continues to defend the program. The New York Times article is available here.