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Jeanne Shaheen, John McCain and catfish. (Photo: U.S. Senate/ John McCain Facebook)

Both houses launch legislation to eliminate USDA catfish inspections

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Friday, March 22, 2013, 23:40 (GMT + 9)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the Senate and the House of Representatives are introducing legislation to amend the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 Farm Bill) that would repeal a “redundant” programme that inspects and grades catfish.

US Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John McCain (R-AZ) and eight others introduced S. 362 this week to get rid of this duplicative programme that wastes millions of dollars yearly; similar legislation -- H.R. 1313 -- was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswomen Vicky Hartlzer (R-MO) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) along with 23 other members of Congress.

According to Senator Shaheen, if the situation were left alone, both the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have the job of regulating seafood. The USDA said this new catfish regulatory scheme will cost some USD 30 million to set up and at least USD 14 million per year to run.

Those who defend having the USDA conduct seafood inspections argue that it would put US catfish producers on an even playing field with catfish importers, as USDA inspections are considered more thorough and continuous than the FDA’s intermittent inspection model, Food Safety News reports.

“Businesses, industry leaders and members of both parties all agree that repealing the USDA Catfish Inspection programme is a smart move that will rein in excess spending and save tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. We should act on this legislation as quickly as possible,” said Senator Shaheen.

Senator McCain called it “common sense” that the proposed USDA Catfish Office be abolished in light of the criticisms made against it by the Government Accountability Office. He said its true purpose is to buttress the domestic catfish industry at the expense of US consumers and the country’s international trade partners.

“We don’t need two government agencies inspecting seafood,” said Congresswoman Hartzler. “The FDA currently inspects all commercial seafood. A provision in the 2008 Farm Bill to move catfish inspection to the USDA makes no sense and will only waste tax dollars.”

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard warned that inaction would lead to not just wasting millions of tax dollars, but that it would also undermine the US’s food safety system and put consumers’ health at risk.

Supporters of the legislation to eliminate the USDA Catfish Inspection programme include the American Soybean Association, Food Marketing Institute, National Meat Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Restaurant Association, and the US Dairy Export Council.

Related articles:

Catfish should not be regulated by USDA: report
Senate repeals USDA Catfish Inspection Office

By Natalia Real


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