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By Casey Wooten
Sept. 15 — Supporters of a Senate-passed resolution that would roll back Agriculture Department inspections of catfish imports are claiming they have enough votes for House passage.
About 220 members of Congress—more than a majority—have signed onto letters urging House leadership to bring S.J. Res. 28 to a floor vote. The Senate passed the resolution in May on a 55-43 vote.
The measure, a joint resolution of disapproval, would use the Congressional Review Act to strike a USDA rule that transferred inspection of catfish and its imported Asian relative, pangasius, from the Food and Drug Administration to the USDA. Critics have said the broader and stricter USDA inspection program—which began in March—is a waste of government resources and that the FDA system was adequate to protect American consumers (See previous story, 05/26/16).
House leadership hasn't said whether it will bring the resolution to a vote. Many Southern-state lawmakers, where most U.S. catfish farms are based, have joined consumer advocacy-minded lawmakers in opposing the resolution. But with more than half of House members now backing the resolution striking USDA inspections, the pressure to give the measure a vote is mounting.
In their Sept. 13 letter to House leadership, the resolution's supporters—spearheaded by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.)—called on lawmakers to uphold regular order and being the measure to a vote.
“This is not a food safety issue,” the letter said. “USDA acknowledges that catfish, regardless of where it comes from, is considered a ‘low risk food.'”
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Text of the Sept. 14 letter is available at http://src.bna.com/iCF.
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