350 Agriculture:Repeal the USDA Catfish Inspection Program

Savings in Millions of Dollars
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As reported on pages 19–20 of U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Seafood Safety: Responsibility for Inspecting Catfish Should Not Be Assigned to USDA,” Report to Congressional Requesters GAO-12-411, May 2012, the proposed catfish program would cost the federal government and industry an estimated $14 million annually, with the federal government bearing 98 percent of the cost. This GAO report notes that the reported estimate of $14 million annually may understate the true costs of the program.


Technical Notes on Scoring

CBO Baseline

Unless otherwise noted, calculations for savings for each recommendation relies on the most recent Congressional Budget Office baseline, as found in “An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2014 to 2024,” published August 27, 2014, has been used.

Savings “Totals”

While totals for the five and 10 year savings are provided by section and for the complete set of recommendations, there are two reasons they should not be viewed as representing total savings for The Budget Book.

First, as noted in the introduction, The Heritage Foundation would recommend that the savings realized in the Function 050 Defense section would stay within the Department of Defense to strengthen the nation’s defense capabilities.

Second, the numbers cannot be deemed to represent the realized savings if every single recommendation were adopted because policy changes made in one program can impact spending levels in other programs.  Thus, the numbers in the table do not reflect any potential interactions between the various policy changes affecting spending or savings.


Heritage Recommendation:

Repeal the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) catfish inspection program. This proposal saves $14 million annually, and $140 million over 10 years.


Don’t need 2 federal agencies regulating catfish!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates domestic and imported seafood. However, the 2008 farm bill created a special exception requiring the USDA to regulate catfish that is sold for human consumption. This program, which has not yet been implemented, would impose costly duplication because facilities that process seafood, including catfish, would be required to comply with both FDA and USDA regulations.

The evidence does not support the health justifications for the more intrusive inspection program. There has been wide bipartisan opposition to the program. The GAO has criticized the program, publishing a 2012 report with the not-so-subtle title “Seafood Safety: Responsibility for Inspecting Catfish Should Not Be Assigned to USDA.” (( U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Seafood Safety: Responsibility for Inspecting Catfish Should Not Be Assigned to USDA,” GAO–12–411, May 2012, (accessed December 121, 2014) )) Another GAO report succinctly summarized most of the problems, noting that the program “would result in duplication of federal programs and cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually without enhancing the safety of catfish intended for human consumption.” (( U.S. Government Accountability Office, “High Risk Series: An Update,” GAO–13–283, February 2013, pp. 198–199,
(accessed December 16, 2014) ))

The USDA catfish inspection program would also have serious trade implications. Foreign exporters selling catfish under FDA requirements would need to establish a new regulatory system equivalent to the USDA program. This approval process could take years.

Catfish-exporting countries, such as Vietnam, would likely retaliate and win any trade disputes because the program would be an unjustified trade barrier. The retaliation would likely come against industries other than the catfish industry, such as milk producers or meat packers. American consumers also would suffer because this program would reduce competition.

Don’t need 2 federal agencies regulating catfish!

Contributing Expert

Daren Bakst studies and writes about agriculture subsidies, property rights, environmental policy, food labeling and related issues as The Heritage Foundation’s research fellow in agricultural policy.

See publications by Daren Bakst

Daren BakstResearch Fellow in Agricultural Policy

Heritage Expert

Diane Katz, who has analyzed and written on public policy issues for more than two decades, is a research fellow in regulatory policy at The Heritage Foundation.

See publications by Diane Katz

Diane KatzResearch Fellow in Regulatory Policy

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