U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today welcomed a U.S. Department of Commerce antidumping decision that will give farm-raised catfish producers in Mississippi and the nation some relief from unfair, low-priced foreign imports.
Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez on Friday afternoon informed Cochran that the U.S. Department of Commerce had completed its latest antidumping duty administrative review on frozen fish fillet imports from Vietnam and found that the U.S. catfish industry has been harmed by unfairly-priced imports. The Commerce Department will now take action to enforce an antidumping order against frozen fish fillets from Vietnam.
"This is very good news for Mississippi's catfish farms and those who work on them. They have been harmed for years by unfair trade practices. I am pleased that the Commerce Department will now begin to move toward ensuring fair trade for our American catfish producers," Cochran said. "I believe that on a level playing field, our producers can compete with anyone."
"This decision to require fairer duties on imports is a step in the right direction, but the Commerce Department must continue to enforce our trade laws in future decisions. Now it's time for the administration to take responsible actions on an inspection program that will ensure the quality of fish imports, particularly for imports marketed as catfish," he said.
Cochran on March 4 met with Sánchez to discuss the antidumping duty administrative review. The meeting was the latest action by the Senator in recent years to try to ensure fair trade treatment for the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry that has experienced steep declines since 2008 due to unfair foreign imports. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics that indicate the market share maintained by U.S. catfish producers has dropped from 80 percent to 20 percent since an antidumping case against Vietnam was filed.
Cochran, who sponsored the 2008 Farm Bill requirement on imported catfish inspections, has been critical of the federal government failure to implement a more stringent inspection process for imported fish products.
A 2011 Government Accountability Office report titled, "Seafood Safety: FDA Needs to Improve Oversight of Imported Seafood and Better Leverage Limited Resources", that underscored the lack of sufficient food safety inspections for imported seafood, including imported catfish. Only about 2 percent of imported seafood is currently inspected. Even at that minimal level, there were health and safety violations found in 482 shipments of imported catfish products between 2002 and August 2010.