WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) joined U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and seven other U.S. Senate colleagues in warning the Biden administration of the disastrous economic outlook for U.S. catfish farmers and processers if it adopts a preliminary decision to significantly reduce antidumping duties on imported catfish from Vietnam.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the Senators requested a reversal of a preliminary decision that abandons decades of precedent on an antidumping duty order that has helped establish a level playing field for the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry.
“Alabama is the number two state in American catfish production, raising one-third of the world’s catfish,” said Senator Tuberville. “As a former catfish restaurant owner, I know firsthand how critical catfish are to our economy. It is important that we put our American catfish farmers first. That’s why I’m proud to join this effort.”
Senator Tuberville’s efforts to protect American catfish farmers received support from catfish farmers across the country, and in Alabama.
“The loose regulatory environment and government assistance available in Vietnam have allowed state aligned Swia producers to sell in the U.S. and European markets at a price significantly lower than domestic products,” said Chris Barnette, COO of Harvest Select in Uniontown. “U.S. farm raised catfish production has decreased by nearly 50 percent since the large-scale importation of this subsidized product began, largely as a result of this unfair competition. Lowering the tariff on an already cheap product will incentivize even more dumping of fillets onto the U.S. market, driving down the price of US Farm Raised Catfish. U.S. farmers and processors are held to the highest standard in the world to deliver the best product possible to the American consumer, which limits the domestic industry’s ability to lower prices in response. The dumping, even with the current tariff, has resulted in a near 50 percent drop in the U.S. industry, and the largescale lowering of the tariff could quickly threaten the independent farmers who have, so far, been able to remain.”
“I would like to thank Senator Tuberville’s support of the U.S. catfish farmers,” said Townsend Kyser, an Alabama catfish farmer in Greensboro. “He has always been a great advocate for agriculture not only for our state but this country as well.”
Under the preliminary decision pertaining to Certain Frozen Fish Fillets from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the non-market economy (NME) anti-dumping duty could be reduced from $2.39/kg to $0.14/kg for all producers controlled by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV).
The lawmakers advocate retaining an existing anti-dumping duty order that treats exporters from NME countries like Vietnam based on the level of demonstrated independence from CPV control, with those most under the thrall of the CPV assessed the higher rate. A blanket assessment of the lower rate would, the Senators argue, also set precedent for the approximately 250 NME proceedings involving communist governments before the Commerce Department.
If Commerce’s preliminary decision is not corrected, then cheap Vietnamese catfish imports will be allowed to flood the U.S. market and put catfish farmers and processors out of business. In Alabama, the catfish industry is predominantly in the Black Belt, with numerous farmers and processors at significant risk with this ruling.
The entire letter to Secretary Raimondo can be found here.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Alabama is ranked 2nd nationally in farm-raised catfish production behind its western neighbor, Mississippi. Alabama is home to approximately 66 farm-raised catfish farms, predominantly across the Black Belt Region, that encompass approximately 15,000 acres of surface water area. The catfish industry employs over 2,400 individuals and contributes nearly $92 million in economic value to our state.
Last year, Senator Tuberville highlighted the importance of the catfish industry to Alabama by helping lead a Senate resolution to designate August 2023 as National Catfish Month. The designation recognizes the importance of the catfish industry to the United States’ economy and honors our farmers working in catfish production, feed manufacturing, and processing.
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.