The USDA summary of the president’s budget recommendations includes a description of lower priority programs that should be eliminated. Thankfully, this included the incredibly wasteful and duplicative Catfish Inspection Program. Taxpayers for Common Sense and our partners have long advocated for the elimination of the USDA program since the Food and Drug Administration completes the same service for less money.
Current law directs that the Food and Drug Administration is responsible for conducting safety inspections for all fresh and saltwater seafood. All except for that super special siluriformes – catfish. This is because under the 2008 farm bill, catfish inspections became the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture due to protectionist measures by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS).
Lawmakers and the Obama Administration knew the program was better served at the FDA. That is why when the Senate first debated a new farm bill in 2012, an amendment to eliminate the USDA catfish inspection office was so noncontroversial it was accepted by voice vote. During the new Congress in 2013, the House released its version of the farm bill and members didn’t even need to vote to eliminate the program. The House Agriculture Committee itself, not normally inclined to reject parochial programs, eliminated the USDA catfish inspection office as part of the base bill. Even President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget request sought to keep the USDA out of the program. The new Senate in 2013 would not be as friendly.
Out of the 73 amendments passed in the 2012 Senate farm bill, only one was stripped when the Senate reintroduced the 2013 bill. Can you guess which one? That’s right, the amendment to eliminate the USDA Catfish Inspection Program. Why the change of heart after the elections? The new ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee was none other than Senator Cochran, who just so happens to represent the state that raises 57 percent of the catfish produced in the U.S. No vote ever took place on the amendment to eliminate the program because of his crony capitalism catfish policies. It is time that this USDA program was eliminated, saving taxpayers millions of dollars each year.