Turtle Farmers Say Ban is Unfair
Louisiana turtle farmers are unique in the region, blaming federal regulation rather than the Gulf Coast oil spill for their current economic woes. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, turtles were a popular pet in the United States. In 1975, however, the Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of turtles over four inches, citing fears of salmonella contamination. The FDA claims the ban has saved over 100,000 children from salmonella related illness.
Louisiana farmers, however, say the ban has had a disastrous impact on their livelihood. Concordia turtle farm in Jonesville, La., run by Jesse Evans, sells 2 million turtle hatchlings every year, but says that the ban is slowly strangling businesses. Half of Louisiana’s turtle farms have been forced to close since the ban and turtle farmers are suing the remove the FDA’s restrictions.
“Each year they told us it’s not good enough and here we are 35 years later, 98.9 percent salmonella free and it’s still not good enough,” said Eddie Jolly, president of the Independent Turtle Farmers of Louisiana. Jolly also points out that the ban does not restrict snakes and frogs who also carry bacterial contamination.
Despite the ban, millions of turtles are illegally sold, many of which carry illnesses they contracted in the wild. Dr. Michael Strain, Louisiana’s Commissioner of Agriculture, has argued that lifting the ban would limit the black-market, reduce the contamination, and would increase sales from $8 million to more than $100 million a year, helping the Louisiana economy. In the face of the damage done by the oil spill, many turtle farmers argue that losing another major business could be disastrous to the Louisiana economy.
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