A Friend Of Catfish Farmers
The Post's Jeffrey H. Birnbaum reports today that U.S. catfish farmers were one of the winners in the recently brokered $300 billion farm bill, thanks in large part to Thad Cochran, a ranking Mississippi Republican on the appropriations committee.
Under the a provision in the bill proposed by Cochran, the Agriculture Department would have to inspect and grade catfish, likely putting a crimp in the rapid growth of imported fish from Asia.
Skyrocketing feed prices and cheap Chinese and Vietnamese catfish exports have cut into domestic catfish revenues in recent years, said Jeff McCord, a spokesman for the Jackson, Miss.-based Catfish Institute.
During the past four years, the amount of catfish imported from China increased from 1.6 million pounds to more than 22 million pounds, according to statistics provided by McCord.
Mississippi has more catfish farmers than any other state and Cochran has proved to be a valuable ally. He inserted language in a wartime appropriations bill in 2003 to ensure catfish farmers received $34 million in drought relief and three years later he successfully lobbied USDA officials to adopt feed credits to farmers of $34 per ton.
However, Cochran's efforts might be cast aside.
Congressional leaders, who reached an agreement Thursday on the bill that would spend billions over the next five years on nutrition, conservation, energy and farm subsidy programs, faces a likely veto by the Bush administration. Officials have called the new farm a "bloated" measure during a time of record farming company profits.
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