Proposed Farm Bill Puts More Regulation on Catfish, Seafood Industry

The new USDA catfish program is projected to cost taxpayers about $14 million annually.

As Congress continues to work on a new farm bill, this blog post from The Weekly Standard takes the legislation to task for a new program that will require that catfish to be monitored by the Department of Agriculture, doubling up on regulatory oversight since catfish, like all fish is already monitored by the Food and Drug Administration.

The program's supporters, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), have to this point blocked a vote to kill the program?, claiming the extra layer of regulation is needed as a matter of food safety. But it could cause facilities that process catfish and other seafood to comply with both FDA requirements for seafood (not including catfish) and USDA requirements for catfish. 

Earlier this year, the duplicative catfish regulations were featured prominently in the Government Accountability Office's "2013 Annual Report: Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits." It's also worth noting the GAO has called out these problematic regulations on at least two other occasions, and the proposed additional regulations has been a source of friction at Trans-Pacific trade talks with the New York Times reporting last week that Vietnam is threatening to scuttle a major trade deal over the catfish regulations. Vietnam, a large exporter of catfish and one of the nations in the trade talks, says it is nothing more than a trade barrier in disguise.

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