Press Releases

Washington, D.C.U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today applauded the Senate passage of a Resolution of Disapproval that would nullify a federal rule that creates the wasteful and duplicative catfish inspection office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program costs taxpayers approximately $14 million a year, saddles American businesses with heavy, duplicative regulation, and exposes our economy to a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization.

“The USDA catfish inspection office is an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars and a classic example of anti-free market protectionism,” said Senator McCain. “This office – which GAO has repeatedly labeled as ‘wasteful and duplicative’ – serves no other purpose than to benefit a handful of special-interest domestic catfish farmers in southern states at American consumers’ expense. It’s past time we finally send this duplicative, big-government program out to sea.”

“The time has come to put an end to this harmful, unnecessary and wasteful catfish inspection program that’s burdening American businesses and taxpayers,” said Senator Shaheen. “For more than four years, I’ve lead the effort to end this program, and I’m pleased that there’s broad bipartisan support to do just that. This program has nothing to do with food safety; it’s an illegal trade barrier that wastes taxpayer dollars and threatens jobs in New Hampshire and across the country.”

“Spending more to do the exact same thing is logic that only works in Washington,” said Senator Ayotte. “Today’s resolution is an important step towards eliminating this wasteful and duplicative inspection regime once and for all, and I will keep up the fight to make sure we’re spending taxpayer dollars wisely – not flushing them down the drain.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) traditionally has been tasked with oversight of all fish, including catfish. However, a provision included in the 2008 Farm Bill removed FDA oversight of only catfish, transferring inspection responsibilities to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) within USDA. The switch will require seafood companies that handle catfish and any other seafood product to be subject to redundant and inefficient regulations from both FDA and FSIS. This inefficient use of taxpayer dollars duplicates inspection activities because, according to GAO, facilities that process both catfish and other fish would be inspected by both USDA and FDA regulation.

In ten separate Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports from 2011 to 2016, GAO has identified USDA's catfish inspection program as duplicative, a waste of taxpayer dollars, and consequently called for its elimination. Astoundingly, FSIS has spent $20 million in taxpayer dollars without inspecting a single catfish. Over the next decade, FSIS catfish oversight will cost American taxpayers $170 million, performing the same job the FDA fulfills for $7 million.

The Resolution is supported by the Food Marketing Institute, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, Taxpayers Alliance, Campaign for Liberty, Center for Individual Freedom, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Independent Women’s Voice, National Taxpayers Union, R Street Institute, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, and Taxpayers for Commonsense.

Senator McCain has been leading the fight against protectionist catfish programs since 2001 when he fought to repeal an anti-free market catfish labeling program buried in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill. Senator McCain has filed several amendments to repeal the USDA Catfish Inspection Program over the years, including an amendment that was adopted by the Senate in 2012. However, the program resurfaced in the next Farm Bill unscathed and expanded. In 2015, Senator McCain filed an amendment to the Trade Promotion Authority Act to repeal the catfish program because of its harmful impact on American agricultural exports, but he was denied a vote.