U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) expressed concerns to U.S. International Trade Commission Chairman Deanna Okun regarding imports of fish. In a letter to Okun, Senator Shelby stated his belief that the U.S. International Trade Commission should be aware of the effects of imports from Vietnam of fish and the possible displacement of U.S. farm-raised catfish in the United States and world market. The letter also expresses support for the antidumping petition filed by the U.S. catfish industry, which seeks relief from unfairly traded imports of frozen basa and tra fillets from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
U.S. catfish farm production accounts for 68% of the pounds of fish sold and 50% of the total value of all U.S. aquaculture production. The catfish industry is a young industry that has used $40 million from U.S. farmers, as well as additional monies from the U.S. branded processing plants, to create a catfish market here and abroad where none has existed before. All of the catfish feed mills and processing plants are either farmer-owned cooperatives or family-owned businesses. In the catfish processing industry alone, 75% of the employees are single mothers in their first job. With depressed prices for almost all other agricultural commodities, catfish production is critical to the U.S. economy, especially to the Mid-South's economy, farm infrastructure, rural communities and local workforce.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service reported on January 22, 2001, that U.S. farm-raised catfish processed during December 2000 was down 14% from last year. The Vietnamese frozen fillets are currently sold in the U.S. for approximately $1 per pound less than domestically grown frozen fillets. Freshwater catfish imports for November 2000 was more than triple the amount imported the previous year. Vietnam accounted for 84 percent of the imports with the remainder coming from Guyana, Taiwan, and Thailand. In addition, no U.S. farm-raised catfish exports have been reported to the U.S. Department of Commerce since March 2000.
"The import of fish from Vietnam has had a noticeable effect on our economy," said Shelby. "It is my hope that the International Trade Commission will take a good look at this situation and will act to preserve the U.S. catfish industry."
Senator Shelby's letter to the U.S. International Trade Commission was signed by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), Senator Than Cochran (R-MS), in addition to members of the Arkansas and Louisiana Congressional delegations.
The Honorable Deanna Okun
U.S. International Trade Commission
500 E Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20436
Dear Chairman Okun:
We are writing to express our support for the antidumping petition recently filed by the U.S. catfish industry, which seeks relief from unfairly traded imports of frozen basa and tra fillets from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Production of U.S. farm-raised catfish is extremely important to our states. Thousands of workers, including many family farmers, derive their livelihood from the production of farm-raised catfish. The catfish industry has been negatively impacted by increased importation of falsely labeled fish and fish products from Vietnam.
Antidumping laws were designed to address problems such as those faced by our catfish farmers and processors. The tremendous increase in Vietnamese imports has crippled the U.S. market for frozen catfish fillets and, in many instances, has left our farmers unable to continue a profitable operation. Catfish processors, who provide substantial employment in rural communities, have also been negatively impacted.
Congress has taken steps to address mislabeling. However, we urge you to allow this case to move forward so that the catfish industry may address pricing issues.