SHAHEEN, MCCAIN CONTINUE CALL TO END WASTEFUL, DUPLICATIVE CATFISH INSPECTION PROGRAM
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and John McCain (R-AZ) are continuing their push to eliminate a wasteful and duplicative catfish inspection program that could cost taxpayers millions to develop and $15 million annually to operate. In a letter sent to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Senators Shaheen and McCain requested that their amendment to eliminate the program be included in the conference report of the 2013 Farm Bill that is currently being negotiated by the House and Senate.
The amendment would eliminate a requirement for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a costly catfish inspection program that would duplicate the efforts already carried out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). USDA has warned that the program will cost $15 million a year to operate and is already costing millions of dollars a year to develop. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, which evaluates risk for wasteful spending, recommended eliminating the program because it is a “duplicative” and “high-risk” for waste, fraud, and abuse.
“At a time when Congress needs to find places to save money, the USDA catfish inspection program fits the bill for elimination,” said Senators Shaheen and McCain in their letter. “USDA has estimated that this program will cost $30 million to set up and $15 million to operate annually. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration only spends about $700,000 per year to inspect catfish. We urge you to keep in mind the economic impact of this program and the bipartisan consensus behind its repeal as you continue Farm Bill conference negotiations.”
USDA has jurisdiction over inspection of meat, poultry and eggs, while FDA has jurisdiction over all other foods, including seafood. If implemented, the USDA catfish program would create a duplicative regulatory process in which USDA inspects catfish and FDA inspects all other seafood. As a result, every U.S. facility that processes catfish and any other seafood would be subject to duplicative regulation from both USDA and FDA.
Shaheen and McCain have consistently been vocal opponents against the USDA program. This April, they introduced legislation with a bipartisan, bicameral coalition to repeal the program. Their efforts have been supported by 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.
The full text of their letter is below:
July 22, 2013
The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry
United States Senate
328A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chairwoman Stabenow:
As you conference with the House of Representatives on the 2013 Farm Bill, we ask that you accede to provisions in the House-passed Farm Bill (Section 11107 of H.R. 2642) that would eliminate the wasteful and duplicative USDA catfish inspection program.
Out of the 73 amendments the Senate approved as part of the Senate’s Farm Bill in 2012 (S. 3240), each was re-added to the Senate’s Farm Bill in 2013 except S.Amdt.2199, reintroduced this year as McCain-Shaheen Amendment 956, to eliminate the USDA catfish office. Our amendment was singled out and blocked from having a vote despite its overwhelming support in the Senate. Fortunately, an identical amendment offered by Congresswomen Vicky Hartzler and Lucille Roybal-Allard was added to the House Farm Bill with a recorded vote (31-15) in the House Agriculture Committee.
As a reminder, the Government Accountability Office has spoken out against this program on five separate occasions because of the program’s duplicative and wasteful nature. The President also opposes the program and proposed to eliminate funding for USDA catfish inspection in his FY2014 budget request. The Office of Management and Budget states that eliminating funding for duplicative catfish inspection at USDA will allow the USDA to be "better able to focus on its core mission of ensuring the safety of the Nation's meat and poultry supply." USDA's own food safety experts declare that catfish, both domestic and imported, is a "low risk" food.
At a time when Congress needs to find places to save money, the USDA catfish inspection program fits the bill for elimination. USDA has estimated that this program will cost $30 million to set up and $15 million per year to operate. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration only spends about $700,000 per year to inspect catfish. Furthermore, implementation of this program would leave us open to dramatic retaliation from many of our trading partners, putting at risk billions of dollars in our national agricultural export industry.
We urge you to keep in mind the economic impact of this program and the bipartisan consensus behind its repeal as you continue Farm Bill conference negotiations. As a matter of good government, we look forward to the repeal of the USDA catfish inspection program once and for all in a final conferenced Farm Bill.
Press Office, (202) 224-5553