Mississippi Senator Doesn’t Want White House to Again Delay USDA Final Rule

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, today indicated he intends to keep pressure on the Obama administration to fully establish a catfish inspection program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cochran took part in a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing Wednesday regarding implementation of the 2014 farm bill. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testified that the USDA will be prepared to send a final rule establishing a catfish inspection program to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by the end of May.

“The USDA has made good progress to implement policies in the new farm bill, including the catfish inspection program. I appreciate that, but I intend to see that the food safety inspection program for catfish is successfully put in place,” Cochran said.

“The catfish inspection program was authorized in 2008 and we saw some progress then, too. Unfortunately, President Obama’s administration has stalled the program for years. We need to make sure that cannot happen again, and it’s why we gave them clear direction in the farm bill,” he said.

Within the 2014 farm bill enacted in February, the Congress clarified provisions of the 2008 inspection directive in order to allow the USDA to implement a food safety inspection program that requires all producers and processors of catfish, both domestic and foreign, to abide by the same food safety standards.

Vilsack reported that on March 14, 2014, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service submitted the first status report to Congress on the development of the final rule establishing a catfish inspection program. On April 30, a Memorandum of Understanding between the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration was signed to “improve interagency cooperation on food safety and fraud prevention and to maximize the effectiveness of personnel and resources related to examination and inspection of catfish.” He lastly noted that by the end of May, USDA will be prepared to send a final rule establishing a catfish inspection program to OMB.