Catfish processing for export (Source: VNA)
Washington DC (VNA) – At least 180 members of the US Congress have recently signed a letter calling on the House of Representatives to approve a resolution to repeal the US Department of Agriculture’s catfish inspection programme.

According to Congressman Vicky Hartzler, who is leading the charge, the letter was sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Major Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of the House, on June 13.

Opponents of the change, first made in the 2008 Farm Bill, say inspections should be returned to the Food and Drug Administration, which currently regulates all other species of seafood.

Earlier on May 25, the Senate voted 55 to 43 in favour of the resolution. Bill supporters, including Republican Sen. John McCain, argued that the USDA programme is wasteful, duplicative and unnecessary.

They said the programme violated commitments to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and would result in a lawsuit that would cost US agricultural exports.

They criticised its intention to protect US catfish producers by raising barriers for catfish imports from Vietnam and other nations.

The resolution still needs the House of Representatives’ approval and President Barack Obama’s signature to take effect.

Catfish is a popular fish in the US, with the market dominated by local producers mostly from southern states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama. In recent years, they have been rivaled by cheaper Asian imports.

In 2008, to protect domestic production, the US Congress created the inspection programme, which includes anti-dumping duties targeting Vietnam’s tra and basa fish.

On December 2 2015, the USDA tightened catfish-related regulations. Observers said these regulations would affect both foreign and domestic producers and would cost the local industry millions of dollars.

On December 9 2015, two senators, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte, introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the USDA's catfish inspection programme.-VNA