Catfish Farmers Push for More Protection

Struggling US catfish farmers are pressuring Congress and the federal government to take more direct action to protect their floundering businesses.
The US catfish industry has been in a state of serious decline since for more than a decade. In states like Mississippi, the industry reached a peak in 2002 with more than 100,000 acres of catfish farms statewide (estimates today suggest that this figure is down by more than half).
The decline is largely due to increased feed costs and foreign competition. Catfish feed is primarily made from corn. The increases in ethanol production and recent droughts have caused corn prices to skyrocket, increasing the price of catfish feed and hurting many domestic farmers.
In addition, countries like China have increased production, driving many American farmers out of business.
In 2008, Congress included new inspection regulations in the farm bill transferring inspection responsibilities from the Food and Drug Administration to the US Department of Agriculture, essentially increasing import standards.
The USDA, some Southern politicians argue, has not fully implemented these new regulations. According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, only 2 percent of imported seafood is inspected under new regulations. This lack of regulation threatens the health of US consumers and hurts domestic production.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer