Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act Of 2012

Floor Speech

By:  John Kerry
Date: June 19, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, Senator McCain and I, along with a strong bipartisan group of our colleagues, are offering this amendment to repeal the 2008 farm bill's catfish language. Our amendment would repeal this language because it is unfair to importers, it is costly to taxpayers, and it provides no food safety benefit. It is duplicative of the other programs, and it never received consideration or debate in the House or Senate and should never have passed in the first place. It doesn't make sense to have a catfish category for the regulation of fish, and then all other fish are in a completely separate category.

The GAO concluded in its recent report:

To enhance the effectiveness of the food safety system for catfish and avoid duplication of effort and cost, Congress should consider repealing provisions of the Farm Bill that assigned USDA responsibility for examining catfish and for creating a catfish inspection program.

Five years later, they are still debating what a catfish is. This is entirely duplicative, a waste of time, and hurts consumers and processors.

I hope colleagues will support us in this effort.

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, this is an amendment on behalf of myself, Senator Murkowski, Senator Brown, and others.

In these very difficult economic times, we have also had a problem for the fishermen of the Northeast and in other parts of the country where the fishing stocks have been greatly reduced for a lot of different reasons, and a lot of fishermen are sitting there with their boats, where they are trying to get through the season in order to be able to fish in the future, with greatly restricted fishing capacity and availability. This is not unlike farmers who wind up with crops being affected by floods and other disasters, things that take place.

All we are seeking is the ability to do away with an inequity in the law that denies fishermen access to a loan under Federal emergency loan standards for when an emergency arises and they need to have some ability to stay over.

The Congressional Budget Office determined that this amendment has no score. There is no score.

We believe commercial fishermen deserve access to the same type of assistance commercial farmers and other people in this country get. We hope colleagues will do away with this anomaly that denies them the ability to simply apply, through normal standards, for a loan.

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