U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) led a bipartisan letter to the House-Senate Farm Bill Conference urging it to preserve the USDA’s foreign catfish inspection program as it works to finalize the farm bill.

The House version of the farm bill looks to repeal the USDA catfish inspection program. “Efforts to repeal the Catfish Inspection Program are premature and ill advised. Contrary to opposing views, USDA’s catfish inspection program will not distort existing or future trade agreements, Sessions says in the letter.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Catfish Inspection Program was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, and it includes instructions for the USDA to establish a voluntary fee-based inspection and grading program for catfish. “This program is critical to the food safety of American consumers and we request that you oppose the provision included in the House farm bill which repeals the USDA catfish inspection program,” Session says in the letter.

The FDA currently inspects U.S. catfish facilities, he says, but FDA inspects less than 2 percent of imported seafood.

“Government Import Refusal data, FDA Import Alerts, NOAA investigations and independent analysis continue to show banned drugs and chemicals in fish imported from Vietnam and China, placing American consumers at risk. Just recently, researchers in North Carolina discovered the use of Formaldehyde on fish imported from Vietnam,” he said. “Our catfish farmers should not be unfairly disadvantaged by foreign imports that skirt the rules. It is only right that foreign catfish producers comply with health and safety standards. All Americans benefit when we defend the legitimate interests of American workers on the world stage.