What is in this article?:
• Do you want an example of commerce trumping food safety? Consider the homely catfish, which continues to be the focal point in a bizarre, international trade tug-of-war that pits business and trade against the well being of U.S. citizens. So far, the scales have not tipped in the favor of consumers — not even close.
• On one hand, the government claims to want the U.S. food supply to be safe and clean, that such protection is paramount. With the other, it shakes hands with Asian trade officials and those who do business with them, all the while knowing that those same foreign officials and businessmen thumb their noses at safety and continue unabated shipments of tainted product into our country.
Still hung up in OMB
Currently, the switch of aquaculture inspections to USDA remains hung up in the OMB. Government officials have been reluctant to make definitive statements on when the issue may be resolved.
“It’s shameful and I’m embarrassed that we haven’t been able to get a rule,” says Morgan. “Not that we haven’t gotten the rule we wanted — just arule. We haven’t gotten any rule. And the last farm bill said this was supposed to be done in 180 days. That 180 days was up 360 days ago.”
Will there be a point when the U.S. catfish industry drops current efforts to force USDA inspections and tries a different tactic?
“We’ve got a conference call scheduled to talk about this,” says Morgan. “My view is we may have to go the legal route and sue. We can’t even get a rule out.
“We’ve already gone public with this. We’ve bought ads in Politico and Roll Call, put out the videos on YouTube. But it isn’t moving the needle.
So, I don’t know what’s left to do” besides legal action.
Morgan says Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor “is picking up the torch (from Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee) for the majority side of the aisle. He’s studying mechanisms and means to use to get the White House to move.”
However, with Sen. Lincoln’s defeat in the November election, “it’s like starting over.”
Noble says those he represents continue to “be hopeful the rule will move forward. They’re well over deadline and our point to the Obama administration is: Congress is beginning to talk about a new farm bill when the last one hasn’t even been fully implemented. We’re extremely frustrated.
“We continue to be concerned about the quality of fish coming into the United States. That’s why we want increased, more thorough inspections. Until that happens, we still have an aquaculture industry where only 2 percent of the imported products are being inspected.”