The 2001 Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations Act, which includes language that states that only catfish produced in North America can be labeled as catfish, was signed into law Nov. 30 by President Bush.

“As of today, Vietnamese fish can no longer be called catfish,” Ben Lamensdorf told Delta Council members at their annual fall Board of Directors meeting Nov. 30 in Greenville, Miss.

Lamensdorf, president of the Stoneville, Miss.-based Delta Council, praises the efforts of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., in securing the language, which is expected to help reduce imports of Vietnamese basa fish that are now being marketed as catfish in the United States.

“This is a great turnaround step for us,” says Hugh Warren, executive vice president of Catfish Farmers of America, based in Indianola, Miss. “We feel that we are finally getting a foothold in solving this dilemma of consumer confusion by the marketing misrepresentation of several different species of Vietnamese fish.”

Warren says he believes many importers and distributors were surprised that the catfish industry had the ability to get this much accomplished in its effort to protect the industry from dishonest marketing. However, he says, it was simply a matter of making certain the laws that apply to imported products are properly enforced.

“We had a legitimate case, and the governmental agencies that have the responsibility to enforce existing laws weren't doing their job,” he says. “What also made it happen was the immense support we received from our congressmen and their staffs.”