(Senate - March 07, 2011)

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[Pages S1329-S1330]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mr. McCAIN (for himself and Mr. Coburn):
  S. 496. A bill to amend the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act to 
repeal a duplicative program relating to inspection and grading of 
catfish; to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

[[Page S1330]]

  Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I am pleased to be joined by my colleague, 
Senator Coburn, in introducing legislation to repeal duplicative 
federal regulations relating to the inspection and grading of catfish. 
Specifically, our bill would rescind a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill, 
Section 11016 of P.L. 110-246, which aims to inhibit Vietnamese catfish 
imports as well as catfish imports of other potential trade partners.
  Section 11016 is nothing more than the latest effort by Members of 
Congress serving the special interests of the catfish industry in their 
home States. A similar protectionist tactic was tried in the 2002 Farm 
Bill when many of these same members slipped in language that made it 
illegal to label Vietnamese catfish, ``pangasius,'' as catfish in U.S. 
retail markets. The intent there was to discourage American consumers 
from buying Vietnamese catfish products even though they are virtually 
indistinguishable from U.S. grown catfish. It didn't work. Vietnamese 
catfish remain popular with American consumers because it is more 
affordable and cheaper to produce than domestic catfish grown in 
aquaculture ponds. Now these special interests are relying on this 
latest Farm Bill rider to over regulate Vietnamese catfish by, 
ironically, deeming pangasius a catfish again. Under the guise of food 
safety, the 2008 Farm Bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 
Food Safety Inspection Service, FSIS, to inspect catfish like it does 
meat products or eggs, except that no other fish is under the 
regulatory thumb of the FSIS. Catfish is already regulated by the Food 
and Drug Administration, FDA, which hasn't reported any safety or 
health problems with the Vietnamese imports. Domestic producers are 
simply trying to create barriers for Vietnamese catfish farmers by 
forcing them to comply with a second inspection regime administered by 
an entirely different arm of the Federal bureaucracy.
  The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, is currently engaged in the 
proposed rulemaking process for implementing this new inspection 
authority. A recent Government Accountability Office, GAO, report 
flagged this FSIS program as ``duplicative'' and ``high risk'' for 
``fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.'' GAO estimates that the USDA 
would spend about $30 million in taxpayer dollars to implement the 
agency's new catfish inspection program and that we would be further 
fragmenting our federal food safety system by having catfish regulated 
twice by both USDA and FDA.
  The provision that I am seeking to repeal is nothing more than a 
protectionist tactic funded at taxpayers' expense. If implemented, the 
proposed USDA regulations will lead to a duplicative, costly and 
complex overseas inspection program that serves no real purpose but to 
protect American catfish growers from competition while forcing 
American consumers to pay more for fish. Not only is the catfish 
provision in Section 11016 offensive to our principles of free trade, 
it flagrantly disregards our Bilateral Trade Agreement and relationship 
with Vietnam. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.