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Legislation would save millions of taxpayer dollars

(Washington, DC) – A bipartisan group of lawmakers from both the Senate and House are taking on a particularly wasteful use of taxpayer dollars today by introducing legislation to amend the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (2008 Farm Bill). The new legislation would repeal a redundant program tasked with inspecting and grading catfish. U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and John McCain (R-AZ), along with 8 other senators, introduced S. 362 today to abolish this duplicative program that wastes millions in taxpayer dollars and similar legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswomen Vicky Hartlzer (R-MO) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).

In the absence of action, both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration would be tasked with regulating seafood. The USDA has indicated that this new catfish regulatory program will cost approximately $30 million to set up and at least $14 million annually to implement after that. 

“This program epitomizes the kind of wasteful and excessive spending in Washington that needs to go. We have to make sure every taxpayer dollar is spent wisely and repealing this redundant and wasteful program is a no-brainer,” said Senator Shaheen. “Businesses, industry leaders and members of both parties all agree that repealing the USDA Catfish Inspection Program is a smart move that will rein in excess spending and save tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. We should act on this legislation as quickly as possible.”

“I’m pleased by the bipartisan and bicameral support for this legislation,” said Senator McCain. “It’s common sense that the proposed USDA Catfish Office should be eliminated given the criticisms lodged against it by the Government Accountability Office. Its true purpose is to prop up the domestic catfish industry at the expense of the American consumer and our international trade partners. This bill was adopted as an amendment to the Senate-passed Farm Bill last Congress, and I’m hopeful we will enjoy similar success during this year’s work on the Farm Bill.”

“We don’t need two government agencies inspecting seafood,” said Congresswoman Hartzler. “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently inspects all commercial seafood. A provision in the 2008 Farm Bill to move catfish inspection to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes no sense and will only waste tax dollars. The General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates it will cost $30 million in start-up costs and at least $14 million each following year for the USDA to train inspectors and run this program. Washington needs to stop this practice of wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.”

“The USDA Catfish Inspection Program represents a bad deal for seafood companies in Los Angeles and taxpayers across the country,” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard. “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. This bipartisan bill will eliminate the wasteful, duplicative program, and I hope Congress will move quickly to pass it,” Roybal-Allard said.

Opponents of the USDA Catfish Inspection Program include the American Soybean Association, Food Marketing Institute, National Meat Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Restaurant Association, and the United States Dairy Export Council.