5:23 PM, Nov 20, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
As Congress moves ahead with the farm bill -- legislation that has historically been full of (figurative) pork -- there's one really obvious measure that needs to be eliminated. A new program that will require that catfish be monitored by the Department of Agriculture. Catfish, like all fish consumed by Americans, is already monitored by the Food and Drug Administration. Supposedly, this extra layer of regulation is a matter of food safety. But according to the Heritage Foundation, this doubling up on regulatory oversight is both expensive and unwarranted:
Facilities that process catfish and other seafood will have to comply with both FDA requirements for seafood (not including catfish) and USDA requirements for catfish. This USDA catfish program will cost taxpayers about $14 million annually.
Proponents of this new, burdensome program justify it based on safety reasons. However, both the FDA and Centers for Disease Control consider commercially raised catfish to be a low-risk food. The USDA has stated that salmonella is the primary food safety hazard with catfish. In its analysis, the USDA found only one possible salmonella outbreak connected to catfish, and that was more than 20 years ago in 1991.
Earlier this year, the duplicative catfish regulations featured prominently in the Government Accountability Office's "2013 Annual Report: Actions Needed to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits." It's also worth noting the GAO has called out these problematic regulations on at least two other occasions. Now the redundant catfish regulations have become an international incident. The New York Times reported last week that Vietnam is threatening to scuttle a major trade deal over the catfish regulations:
Vietnam, a large exporter of catfish and one of the nations in the trade talks, says it is nothing more than a trade barrier in disguise.
“And it’s not even a good disguise; it’s clearly a thinly veiled attempt designed to keep out fish from countries like Vietnam,” said Le Chi Dzung, who heads the economics section at the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington.
It's hard to argue that this isn't a protectionist racket. The retired chief of the FDA’s Seafood Processing and Technology Policy Branch observed, "The inspiration for this rush to spend $30 million (to start) of hard earned taxpayer dollars on a non-existent problem is a group of lobbyists and a trade association representing elements of the American catfish producers." Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) were behind an effort to kill the attempt to duplicate catfish inspection at the USDA earlier this year. "But despite our repeated requests, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), have chosen to block a vote," McCain lamented. It will not be surprising to learn that catfish farming is a big concern in Cochran's home state.
It's understandable that politicians in Washington would want to extend protections to bottom-feeders out of professional courtesy. But if lawmakers in D.C. truly want to act in the interests of taxpayers and ensure that the farm bill doesn't live up to its reputation as a vehicle for waste and favor trading, killing these pointless and expensive catfish regulations would be a good start.
Hosted by Michael Graham.5:40 PM, Nov 8, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior editor Lee Smith on President Obama's puzzling new Iran strategy.
12:00 AM, Jul 13, 2013 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Here’s a TTIP for you. No, that’s not a typo missed by our ever-vigilant editors. It stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, what British prime minister David Cameron calls a “once-in-a-generation prize” that can create two million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, and Sir Peter Westmacott, Britain’s ambassador here in Washington, reportedly describes as the “Holy Grail” for resuscitating transatlantic economies.
12:00 AM, May 18, 2013 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
"Trade makes the cake bigger so everyone can benefit.” So advised our distinguished visitor, British prime minister David Cameron, on the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal.
12:00 AM, Sep 29, 2012 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Free trade might not be the first casualty of an American election campaign, but it is right up there in the top rank. President Obama is bashing Mitt Romney for sending jobs to China when he ran Bain Capital, and Romney is returning the favor by accusing Obama of failing to label China a currency manipulator, and “being China’s doormat at the expense of America’s workers.”
4:23 PM, Aug 9, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
As the New York Times reports, "The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday fined Google $22.5 million to settle charges that it bypassed privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser to show advertisements, and violated an earlier privacy settlement with the agency."
12:00 AM, May 12, 2012 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Perhaps the best way to understand China’s trade policy is to consult professional China watchers who always accuse mere economists of ignoring “context.”
12:00 AM, Feb 18, 2012 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Xi Jinping, the heir apparent to the leadership of the Chinese Communist regime, came to America to meet the president, dine with the vice president, visit a farm in Iowa—following in the 1959 footsteps of Nikita Khrushchev—and attend a basketball game in Los Angeles. The Iowa visit was designed to remind Americans that Xi, who visited Iowa 27 years ago, has a long-standing attachment to America, reinforced by the fact that his daughter is attending Harvard, and that Iowa’s farmers rely heavily on income from exporting their agricultural products.
12:00 AM, Feb 4, 2012 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Some fear America is about to go protectionist. Others fear it won’t. Where you stand on this issue depends on where you sit. Sit in the chair of the CEO of a major exporter, and you fear protectionism and the ever-rising spiral of retaliations. Sit in the chair of the president of a trade union, and you welcome what others call protectionism and you call fair trade. Sit in the chair of a Wal-Mart customer and you fear anything that will drive up prices, putting pressure on your over-stretched budget.
From both Democrats and Republicans.10:30 AM, Oct 20, 2011 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
In her remarks to the 41st Washington Conference on the Americas this past May, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the Western Hemisphere “vital” to U.S. interests, adding that Latin America and the United States “will rise or fall together in the 21st century.” Unfortunately, the Obama administration has yet to champion a regional initiative that matches Secretary Clinton’s lofty rhetoric.
12:41 PM, Oct 12, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
During Tuesday night’s debate in New Hampshire, moderator Karen Tumulty challenged Mitt Romney on his recent tough talk on China. Romney says China is a “currency manipulator” and argues that, by setting unfair prices and allowing the theft of American intellectual property, the Chinese government is cheating world markets and must be held accountable
4:29 PM, Oct 3, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
The president finally submitted trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama to Congress.
2:45 PM, Jul 5, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
In today's Wall Street Journal, Dan Blumenthal and Michael Mazza note that the China's growing military might should give American leaders something to think about with regard to our defense budget:
2:18 PM, Feb 25, 2011 • By PATRICK CHRISTY
Despite high unemployment, the Obama administration has been slow to come up with an effective trade policy. It’s seemingly been trying with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, but its lack of success is startling.