Protecting U.S. catfish producers

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Last week Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce encouraging the department to uphold a fair trade decision to protect U.S. catfish producers from Vietnam’s frozen fillets.

The prices of the catfish fillets from Vietnam are cheaper and therefore affecting U.S. catfish producers.

Last summer, it was determined that U.S. catfish producers have been harmed by the cheaply priced frozen filets from Vietnam, according to a press release from Cochran’s office.

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Wicker said the letter is a part of an ongoing effort to defend the American domestic catfish industry from Vietnam’s imports.

“We are writing to ask you to ensure that the Vietnam Frozen Fish Fillets antidumping proceeding is conducted consistent with the commitment of this Administration to vigorously enforce U.S. trade laws,” said the letter sent to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

The letter to Pritzker states that since 2008, imports of Vietnamese frozen fish fillets more than tripled while U.S. catfish production declined. Measured by water acres devoted to catfish farming, U.S. catfish production declined from 164,000 acres in 2007 to 83,000 acres in 2013.

“We also aim to ensure the Commerce Department is committed to the effective enforcement of our trade laws, which will help level the playing field for Mississippi’s catfish farmers,” Wicker said in a statement to the Picayune Item.

The letter also states the Vietnamese government has been expressed displeasure with decisions made by the Deptartment of Commerce after the department evaluated Vietnam’s catfish exportation.

“While our trading relationship with Vietnam is important, the same can be said for our trading relationship with virtually every country whose products are the subjects of U.S. antidumping proceedings. We urge you to insist upon the full, fair and vigorous application of our trade laws, and to appreciate the critical importance to our industry and our states of ensuring fair trade in Vietnamese imports of frozen fish fillets. We ask that you ensure that pressure from the Vietnamese Government is not a factor in your Department’s decision-making in this proceeding,” stated the letter.

The 2014 farm bill will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue implementing the USDA Catfish Inspection Program, according to the press release from Cochran’s office.

“When people buy catfish, they have the right to know that they are indeed purchasing catfish,” Wicker said.

The letter sent to Pritzker was also signed by Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; David Vitter, R-La.; and Mary Landrieu D-La.