NEW in the New York TimesU.S. Catfish Program Could Stymie Pacific Trade Agreement

How big of a trainwreck is the USDA Catfish Program?

Regulatory Duplication on Display at an Average American Seafood Facility:

Witness how  the USDA catfish inspection regime is clearly a duplicative waste of taxpayer dollars. The tour of this U.S. operation is one that could be repeated in every state in the union. This costly waste impacts American businesses and jobs where you live.

NEW Government Accountability Office Report calls USDA Catfish program wasteful  for the 6th time.

Repealing the program, “would avoid duplication of federal programs and save taxpayers millions of dollars annually without affecting the safety of catfish intended for human consumption.” Yet “none of the actions needed in that area were addressed.” – GAO

Special Interests Playing with Your Money:

The Weekly Standard: What Will it Take to Kill the Farm Bill’s Wasteful Catfish Subsidy?

  • “…If you want to know what’s wrong with Washington, the catfish subsidy is a textbook example.”
  • “…the catfish program appears to be a protectionist racket and a waste of taxpayer money.”
  • “…it’s still going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year in perpetuity.”

Who’s opposed to the USDA Catfish Inspection Program?

The White House:

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CNNMoney: Catfish inspectors among $25 billion cuts in Obama’s budget

The USDA Catfish Inspection program has a virtual army opposed to it. From a bipartisan cadre in the House and Senate, to a who’s who in the world of American agriculture. Experts in public health, public policy, economics, trade and regulation have called for the repeal of the program that does not improve food safety but does cost American jobs and wastes American tax dollars.

Government Accountability Office

Six times the GAO has targeted this program as part of its effort to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse.

  • “Responsibility for Catfish should not be assigned to USDA.” (May 2012)
  • Repealing the USDA catfish inspection program “would avoid duplication of federal programs and could save taxpayers millions of dollars annually without affecting the safety of catfish intended for human consumption.” (April 2013 GAO-13-279SP, Page 34) 

[High-Risk Series (February 2011), Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue (March 2011), Responsibility for Inspecting Catfish Should Not Be Assigned to USDA (May 2012), High-Risk Series An Update (February 2013), Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits (April 2013), 2014 Annual Report: Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits (April 2014)].

Agriculture Groups/Companies

Cargill                                                                             Grocery Manufacturers Association
Hormel Foods                                                                National Council of Farmer Coops
National Meat Association                                            National Milk Producers Federation
National Oilseed Processors Association                     National Pork Producers Council
National Restaurant Association                                  National Turkey Federation
Retail Industry Leaders Association                             Smithfield Foods
United States Dairy Export Council                              United States Grains Council
United States Meat Export Federation                        USA Poultry and Egg Export Council
Western Growers Association                                      United States Meat Export Federation
American Meat Institute                                               Food and Agriculture Export Alliance
Seaboard Foods                                                            American Soybean Association
National Restaurant Association                                 Food Marketing Institute

  • “The change in catfish inspection requirement is not justified.”
  • “The catfish rule could easily be seen by foreign exporting nations as such an unjustifiable trade barrier. The U.S. has and continues to successfully remove non-science-based and other unjustifiable barriers that negatively affect U.S. agricultural exports. Implementing such a rule has the potential to weaken future U.S. efforts if it is perceived as engaging in the same type of activity.”

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives

In new letter, 76 House Members call for catfish repeal.

Letter from House Energy & Commerce Committee Insists on Repeal of USDA Catfish Program in Farm Bill.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
“I am working to end wasteful and duplicative programs like the catfish inspection regime.”

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
“Unless we act, not only will this initiative continue to waste millions of tax dollars, it will also split seafood inspection responsibilities between two different federal agencies, undermine our food safety system and put consumers at risk.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN)                        Rep. Corrine Brown (FL)
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (TN)                             Rep. John Dingell (MI)
Rep. Renee Ellmers (NC)                               Rep. Sam Farr (CA)
Rep. Trent Franks (AZ)                                  Rep. Phil Gingrey (GA)
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (KS)                             Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI)
Rep. Randy Hultgren (IL)                              Rep. William Keating (MA)
Rep. Steve King (IA)                                      Rep. Jack Kingston (GA)
Rep. Tom Latham (IA)                                   Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA)
Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA)                                 Rep. Doris Matsui (CA)
Rep. James McGovern (MA)                         Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC)
Rep. Grace Napolitano (CA)                         Rep Beto O’Rourke (TX)
Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME)                             Rep. Joseph Pitts (PA)
Rep. David Roe (TN)                                     Rep. Thomas Rooney (FL)
Rep. Peter Roskam (IL)                                 Rep. Dennis Ross (FL)
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (TX)                       Rep. Austin Scott (GA)
Rep. Scott Tipton (CO)                                  Rep. Filemon Vela (TX)
Rep. Christopher Gibson (NY)                      Rep. Richard Hudson (NC)
Rep. David Scott (GA)                                    Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR)
Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH)                               Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA)
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM)              Rep. Pete Gallego (TX)
Rep. William L. Enyart (IL)                            Rep. Juan Vargas (CA)
Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL)                                   Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY)
Rep. Joe Courtney (CT)                                 Rep. John Garamendi (CA)
Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (VA)                   Rep. Bob Filner (CA) (2012)
Rep. Marlin Stutzman (IN)                           Rep. Glenn Thompson (PA)
Rep. John Tierney (MA)                                Rep. Niki Tsongas (MA)
Rep. Tim Walberg (MI)                                 Rep. Daniel Webster (FL)
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (GA)                    Rep. Robert Wittman (VA)
Rep. Dan Benishek (MI)                               Rep. Chris Collins (NY)
Rep. Rodney Davis (IL)                                 Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX)
Rep. Bill Johnson (OH)                                 Rep. Jim Jordan (OH)
Rep. Ann Kuster (NH)                                  Rep. Cynthia Lummis (WY)
Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA)                            Rep. Reid Ribble (WI)
Rep. Scott Rigell (VA)                                   Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA)
Rep. Rick Nolan (MN)                                  Rep. Andy Barr (KY)
Rep. Ami Bera (CA)                                      Rep. Tony Cardenas (CA)
Rep. John K. Delaney (MD)                          Rep. Joe Garcia (FL)
Rep. David P. Joyce (OH)                              Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)
Rep. Scott H. Peters (CA)                             Rep. Tom Rice (SC)
Rep. Krysten Sinema (AZ)                            Rep. Peter Welch (VT)
Rep. Kevin Brady (TX)                                  Rep. Paul Broun (GA)
Rep. Vern Buchanan (FL)                             Rep. Kathy Castor (FL)
Rep. David Cicilline (RI)                                Rep. Mike Coffman (CO)
Rep. Doug Collins (GA)                                Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR)
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (IL)                        Rep. Randy Forbes (VA)
Rep. Bill Foster (IL)                                       Rep. Cory Gardner (CO)
Rep. Michael Grimm (NY)                            Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA)
Rep. Darrel Issa (CA)                                    Rep. Lynn Jenkins (KS)
Rep. Peter King (NY)                                    Rep. James Lankford (OK)
Rep. John Larson (CT)                                  Rep. Billy Long (MO)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK)                       Rep. Patrick Murphy (FL)
Rep. Richard Neal (MA)                                Rep. Devin Nunes (CA)
Rep. Mike Pompeo (KS)                               Rep. Bill Posey (FL)
Rep. David Reichert (WA)                            Rep. Brad Schneider (IL)
Rep. Aaron Schock (IL)                                Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH)
Rep. Adrian Smith (NE)                               Rep. Steve Stockman (TX)
Rep. David Valadao (CA)                             Rep. Kevin Yoder (KS)
Rep. Don Young (AK)                                  Rep. Chip Cravaack (MN) (2012)
Rep. Edward Markey (MA) (2012)               Rep. Howard Berman (CA) (2012)
Rep Charles Bass (NH) (2012)                    Rep. Joe Baca (CA) (2012)
Rep. Robert Turner (NY) (2012)                  Rep. Robert Schilling (IL) (2012)
Rep. Laura Richardson (CA) (2012)             Rep. Larry Kissell (NC) (2012)
Rep. Timothy Johnson (IL) (2012)               Rep. Frank Guinta (NH) (2012)
Rep. Barney Frank (MA) (2012)                  Rep. Robert Dold (IL) (2012)
                   

Members of the U.S. Senate

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New Catfish Repeal letter from Sen. McCain promises to, “…terminate [USDA Catfish Program] at every opportunity.”

More Senators bash USDA Catfish Program in new letter to Ag Chair.

Oklahoma Senators say USDA Catfish Regulation robs “legitimate agricultural programs” in new letter.

USDA Spends $20 million on non-existent catfish program… Senators ask where the money went.

Original sponsor and co-sponsor of bipartisan Senate repeal bill reach out to Ag Chair and conferees, insisting on catfish repeal. 

Idaho Senators Tell Ag Chair Catfish Program Should be Repealed Once and For All

04/12/2013
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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
“If there were legitimate food safety reasons for having USDA inspect catfish, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) (6.14.12)
“It serves no public interest, it’s costly for taxpayers, it’s duplicative … and, as a result, will invite trade retaliation and put us in a train wreck of regulatory conflict.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH)                             Sen. Scott Brown (MA) (2012)
Sen. Tom Coburn (OK)                            Sen. Mike Crapo (ID)
Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA)                        Sen. Mark Steven Kirk (IL)
Sen. Jeff Flake (AZ)                                  Sen. Bill Nelson (FL)
Sen. James Risch (ID)                              Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA)                       Sen. Ben Cardin (MD)
Sen. Michael Enzi (WY)                           Sen. James Inhofe (OK)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)               Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Sen. Patty Murray (WA)                         Sen. Mark Warner (VA)
Sen. Mark Kirk (IL)                                 Sen. Max Baucus (MT)
Sen. Edward Markey (MA)                     Sen. Dean Heller (NV)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO)                    Sen. Jim Webb (VA) (2012)
Sen. John Kerry (MA) (2012)                  

Special Interest Catfish Lobby Standing in Way of Senate Repeal Vote

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Thirteen Senators Call for Catfish Repeal in letter to Senate Ag Chair

In this letter Sens. McCain, Shaheen, Kirk, Nelson, Coburn, Crapo, Risch, Ayotte, Cantwell, Lautenberg, Enzi, Whitehouse and Warner ask the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee to get rid of the wasteful USDA Catfish Inspection program:

“Consistent with the support of the full Senate to eliminate the program during last year’s Farm Bill consideration, we request that you ensure this year’s Farm Bill repeals the USDA catfish inspection program.”

 Trade Specialists

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by China’s Chamber of Commerce, “If Congress… does not repeal this provision.. we reserve the right to…” 

U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls USDA catfish program “transparently protectionist and ill-advised…”

The US-China Business Council
“…the United States should be reluctant to impose regulations that have questionable scientific basis. Doing so opens the door to our trading partners imposing similar regulations on US exports.”
“…we urge you to weigh in with Congress on the Administration’s objections to the implementation of the catfish inspection program and support its repeal as part of the Farm Bill. “

Emergency Committee for American Trade
“U.S. exporters of food and agricultural products have fought against scientifically unfounded non-tariff barriers to their exports for years, and this program sets a poor precedent for American leadership in that regard. It should, therefore, be repealed. “

Congressional Research Service
“Retaliation measures could include restrictions on imports of U.S. agricultural products, which in the case of China and Vietnam, two major exporters of ‘catfish’ to the United States, were $20 billion and $1.6 billion, respectively, in 2011.”

James Bacchusformer chief judge on the highest WTO Court of Appeals and former Member of the Congress.
“… there is nothing ‘disguised’ about this protectionism.”
“Because WTO litigation is intensely fact-specific…we are always reluctant to express definitive opinion about a possible case in a preliminary assessment. This case, however, stands on somewhat different ground… In our view, Vietnam would have a very strong WTO case against the United States.”

Emergency Committee for American Trade
“At a time of economic distress throughout the world, the United States should be leading the world of out protectionism, not into it.”

Sherzod Abdukadirov, Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center
“Beyond limiting competition— which raises prices for consumers — the USDA’s program is a waste of money.”

United States Ambassadors

Douglas “Pete” Peterson U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, 1997 to 2001 and former POW
“Either the United States is a trusted trading partner who adheres to agreed upon rules or is a country that engages in linguistic gymnastics to say one thing but do another.”

 Michael W. Marine U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, 2004 to 2007
“Our actions should reflect our commitments and follow sound science rather than the narrow interests of a small minority.”

Budget Watchdogs

Letter from twelve budget watchdog groups says, “opposition to [USDA Catfish Program] is universal among members who rally around common sense.”

More Government Watchdogs Call for Senate Repeal of USDA Catfish Inspection Program.

New Deficit Reduction Recommendation Report suggests Congress Eliminate USDA Catfish Inspection Program.

Public Notice
“…the catfish inspection program is Exhibit A in when it comes to making the case that our nation’s agriculture policy is profoundly broken.”

Citizens Against Government Waste
“…they’ve spent about twenty million doing nothing.”

Heritage Foundation
“Heritage Action supports the McCain [Catfish Repeal] Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our scorecard.”

National Taxpayers Union
“NTU urges all Senators to vote “YES” on the following S. 3240 Farm Bill amendments: McCain (R-AZ): #2199: Catfish [repeal.]

Republican Study Committee
“This program is yet another wasteful and duplicative federal program which has the potential to negatively impact the U.S. economy.”

Taxpayers Protection Alliance
“Congress needs to eliminate this new regulation immediately because taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for more bloated bureaucracy.”

Competitive Enterprise Institute
“The proposed regulation is arbitrary, duplicative, and wasteful.

Chairman of Oversight & Government Reform Committee
“Wasteful duplication highlighted in the report include: 3 different agencies in charge of inspecting catfish…”

Food Safety Experts 

Even USDA’s own risk assessment experts question this program
“The CDC consider commercially raised catfish to be a low risk-food.”
“There is substantial uncertainty regarding the actual effectiveness of an FSIS catfish inspection program.”
This probability incorporates the prevalence of Salmonella-contaminated catfish servings and suggests salmonellosis from consuming a serving of catfish is an uncommon event.”
“Sparse information limits [USDA’s] ability to make strong statements about the baseline risk.”
“Also, the rate at which FSIS inspection will achieve its ultimate reductions is unknown.”
“The true effectiveness of FSIS inspection for reducing catfish-associated human illnesses is unknown.”

Dr. Richard Raymond, Former USDA Food Safety Czar
“Too bad so many dollars were wasted on this foolishness.”

Dr. David Acheson, Former FDA Food Safety Czar
“…it’s everything that’s wrong about the food-safety system. It’s food politics. It’s not public health.”

USDA Office of Inspector General; does USDA need yet another product to oversee when it can’t even keep up with its current inspection regime?
The agency already; “has had difficulty maintaining sufficient inspection staff to accomplish its mission.”

Richard Williams, Director of policy research at the Mercatus Center
“…it is unlikely that catfish presents any significant risk to anyone.”