Green Room

A Catfish Bridge to Nowhere

posted at 1:24 pm on April 22, 2011 by

Even in these times of belt-tightening and budget cutting fever, it’s important to remember that there are still some areas where Uncle Sam is going to have to spend money. And among these non-discretionary spending requirements, few are more important than protecting the American people. With that in mind, it’s good to see that our loyal servants in D.C. are ready to protect us from the dangers of… catfish.

There is a battle brewing over catfish. This is not a debate over fried or poached, this is a debate on government regulation of catfish. Even though seafood is inspected by the Food and Drug Administration, there is a move to have foreign catfish put under the purview of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) inspection regime. While this may sound benign, it is a move that could drive up prices, add layers of bureaucracy to an industry that doesn’t need it and burden taxpayers with yet another expensive bureaucracy.

After all is said and done, the move will not increase the safety of catfish and the addition of another inspection program would force the hiring of 90 inspectors and eventually spawn a new government inspection bureaucracy that will end up costing hundreds of millions.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has been digging into this proposal since March, calling it, “nothing more than a protectionist tactic funded at taxpayers’ expense.” Speaking as one of the few isolationists in the crowd, I’m all for a good protectionist tactic now and then, but this is a major expenditure of money going to no discernible purpose. Of all the industries in the country that face challenges in the modern era, catfish production doesn’t exactly leap to the top of the list.

As the linked article demonstrates, repeated and extensive testing of catfish, both domestic and imported, have resulted in such low levels of contamination in each that it’s rated as a low-risk food. These new layers of regulation will initially cost 30 million dollars of wasteful spending to taxpayers, adding up to hundreds of millions over the years to follow.

For additional perspective on this prime example of government in action to protect you, as well as more than a little humor, the following video of Senator McCain conducting hearings on the Big Catfish Question is offered.

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While this may sound benign, it is a move that could drive up prices, add layers of bureaucracy to an industry that doesn’t need it and burden taxpayers with yet another expensive bureaucracy.

So there are 3 reasons the Left wants it.

rbj on April 22, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Speaking as one of the few isolationists in the crowd,

*facepalm*

Count to 10 on April 22, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Gore says catfish cause global warming.

Robert17 on April 22, 2011 at 3:14 PM

OK,I’m going to have to take the opposite position this time.

I actually think that catfish is more appropriately monitored under the USDA than the FDA. APHIS (Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service) under the USDA is better equiped with the standards and inspectors to ensure that quality and wholesome fish get to the consumers. FDA seems to do better in the processed product department (like medicines and prepackaged food). USDA definitely does better for examining safety and quality of meat (from diseases and residues).

I recognize that changing the bureaucracy of catfish will entail some effort and expense, but I think that in the long-run it will actually be beneficial and less expensive to the consumers (in the US). APHIS standards already comply with the international trade standards, so as catfish and other products increase, they have the potential to become commodities that we can trade with other nations.

Things change, and we need a government that is agile enough to change with it. Unfortunately, with all of the layers of bureaucracy and the giant size of our government, agility is not one of its stong points. However, when the US government does take a step in the right direction, we need to support it (even if it is a baby step).

gobblemom on April 22, 2011 at 5:01 PM

If I want catfish, all I have to do is drive about 40 minutes east, drop a line in the Tennessee River, and catch ‘em.

Since the TVA put in a hydroelectric dam system in the 1930′s (see the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou), the upstream lakes at the dams have provided a deep water habitat for the native catfish to get much bigger than they used to.

There was a story a few years ago that an inspection diver working at the base of the Pickwick Dam was shocked to find the piece of bottom he stepped on moved out from under him.

It was a catfish about 9-10 ft long, 6-800 lbs.

That is big enough to swallow a man.

See the series on the Animal Planet, River Monsters.

The guy went to the Himalayan foothills in northern India, and found a species of catfish there that were attacking people in the river, and were big enough to drag you under quickly.

Brian1972 on April 22, 2011 at 5:38 PM

This post has been promoted to HotAir.com.

Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Allahpundit on April 22, 2011 at 9:39 PM

Please pay attention for a second, while I boil this down *bad pun alert*

This “catfish bridge to nowhere” issue is about whether to allow giant Vietnamese catfish, called the “irisdescent shark,” mostly from the Mekong delta, and currently sold at your local market while labeled as “SWAI,” to now be sold as CATFISH, and to put Gulf-Coast catfish farmers out of business.

PLEASE, PLEASE, IF YOU HAVE ANY MERCY FOR YOUR FELLOW AMERICANS, DO NOT BUY SWAI!

EVERY SWAI FILET SOLD IS HELPING TAKE A JOB AWAY FROM A GULF-COAST AMERICAN!!!!!

cane_loader on April 22, 2011 at 11:59 PM