Statement on USDA Catfish Regulation

WASHINGTON, DC November 25, 2015 — Today the USDA announced its intention to begin regulation of catfish, a product that USDA, in its own risk assessment, recognizes as a “low risk-food.”  In a fit of honesty, the USDA even admits in the same evaluation that it doubts USDA’s ability do a better job than the current work being done by FDA, questioning the “actual effectiveness of an FSIS catfish inspection program.”

It is unfortunate that clear and concise food safety science was not followed in the implementation of this effort but rather protectionist special interest rhetoric.

There is a disappointing irony in the implementation of this program. While the USDA’s mandate is to regulate and promote American farmers, today’s announcement puts those same men and women in the crosshairs of international trade retaliation.

The USDA Catfish program is in clear violation of our commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and will result in a lawsuit that will cost U.S. agriculture exports.

James Bacchus, former Chief Judge of WTO Court, writes that this program “will not only be inviting a WTO challenge to the rule; it will be giving other nations an opening to enact ‘copycat legislation’ which will further disadvantage our exports. Moreover, if the United States somehow prevails in defending the catfish measure in a WTO case, it will truly be ‘open season’ in the rest of the world for new restrictions on US agricultural exports of all kinds.”

It is cotton farmers in Mississippi, poultry producers in Alabama and soybean harvesters in Arkansas who will feel the pain of trade retaliation.

What’s more, seafood producers in places like New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, and California will suffer the costs associated with duplicative regulation as FDA and USDA both begin regulating seafood in the same plants.

And most problematically, this rule is designed to restrict about 20% of the affordable white fish supply.  A reduction in supply means increased costs to retailers, restaurants, and consumers.

This short-sighted program duplicates regulation, wastes taxpayer money, and hurts American farmers, American seafood processing workers, and American families.

John Connelly
President, National Fisheries Institute

For more than 60 years, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and its members have provided American families with the variety of sustainable seafood essential to a healthy diet. For more information visit:


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Gavin Gibbons