The 2008 farm bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to define the term "catfish" for this new inspection program. The proposed rule provides two options for the definition of catfish and seeks public comment on the issue. One option is the current labeling definition in the 2002 farm bill, which includes all species in the family Ictaluridae. The other option is to define catfish as all species in the order Siluriformes, including the three families typically found in human food channels, including Ictaluridae, Pangasiidae, and Clariidae.

The proposed rule describes the new requirements that will apply to catfish produced in or imported to the United States. Among these requirements is that products labeled as "catfish" must bear either the FSIS mark of inspection or a mark of inspection from the country from which it was exported.

The proposed rule also describes how FSIS will inspect U.S. catfish farms as well as transportation from farms to processing establishments, as required under the 2008 farm bill. In this regard, FSIS will focus on factors affecting the safety of the product being produced, such as water quality and feed.

The proposed rule anticipates a transition period during which domestic and international operations will come into compliance with the catfish inspection program. Once the catfish inspection program rules are issued in final form, FSIS will follow-up by announcing the implementation dates for key provisions in the rule.

Comments must be received on or before June 24, 2011, and may be submitted per the following: through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov; by mail to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS Docket Clerk, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Mailstop 5272, Beltsville, Md. 20705; or by e-mail to fsis.regulationscomments@fsis.usda.gov.

 In addition to a public comment period, FSIS intends to hold public meetings on the proposed rule, which will be announced at a later date.