The program requires inspections of U.S. catfish and requires non-U.S. catfish to be subject to an equivalent food-safety regiment before it can be imported. These requirements were put in place at the behest of U.S. catfish producers who were facing competition from Asia.
The House Republican agriculture bill would eliminate funding for the program, just as FSIS has put forward a proposed rule for implementing the inspection system. The rule was released in February, and FSIS was accepting public comments on its proposal through late June.
Republican and Democratic House members from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama can expected to argue against the bill for this reason, but are likely to face arguments that the program should be struck down as unnecessary.
In March, a bipartisan group of six senators argued that the program should be eliminated because it would hurt Vietnam's exports. Two of these senators — Sens. John KerryJohn KerryHow the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill Obama administration officials ramp up push for Pacific pact Overnight Defense: GOP leaders express concerns after 9/11 veto override | Lawmakers press for Syria 'plan B' | US touts anti-ISIS airstrikes MORE (D-Mass.) and John McCainJohn McCainKerry: US 'on the verge' of suspending talks with Russia on Syria Trump, Clinton to headline Al Smith dinner Overnight Defense: Congress overrides Obama 9/11 veto | Pentagon breathes easy after funding deal | More troops heading to Iraq MORE (R-Ariz.) have strong interests in the economic development of Vietnam.
"The rule is likely to capture Vietnamese pangasius, which would shift these catfish products from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s jurisdiction to USDA," their letter said. "Vietnamese companies would be forced to put into place processes the USDA deems 'equivalent' rather than use the FDA hazard analysis and critical control points system. That would impose an effective short and medium term ban on imports and a long term unnecessary new cost on imported catfish."
Other signatories to the Senate letter were Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Tom CoburnTom CoburnRyan calls out GOP in anti-poverty fight The Trail 2016: Words matter Ex-Sen. Coburn: I won’t challenge Trump, I’ll vote for him MORE (R-Okla.), Mike CrapoMike CrapoLawmakers play catch-up as smartphone banking surges Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit MORE (R-Idaho) and Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenSenators press State Department on 'plan B' in Syria Senate passes bill to preserve sexual assault kits Dems call for better birth control access for female troops MORE (D-N.H.).