WASHINGTON, D.C., January 27, 2023 – At the urging of a bicameral coalition that includes United States Senators Katie Britt (R-Ala.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to purchase up to $42 million of surplus domestic catfish products for distribution to various nutrition assistance programs, including charitable organizations.
USDA provided notification of the purchase approval through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Section 32 program on Wednesday, January 25, 2023. This comes after Senators Britt and Hyde-Smith on January, November 19, 2023, wrote to AMS Director Bruce Summers to further emphasize a request made in November 2022. This initial entreaty to the USDA was made in a letter from Senators Hyde-Smith, Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Representatives Barry Moore (R-Ala.), Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).
This letter outlined that the farm-raised American catfish industry is heavily burdened by rising feed costs due to crushing inflation, an issue than has only been exacerbated in the past few months. “In short, there is more justification today for a sizable USDA Section 32 catfish purchase than when the request was initially delivered,” wrote Senators Britt and Hyde-Smith last week.
“Alabama’s incredible farmers and families across America are being crushed by generationally high inflation, especially those in rural communities,” said U.S. Senator Katie Britt. “This week’s important emergency action by the USDA will help stabilize our state’s and nation’s domestic farm-raised catfish markets. This is crucial, because food security is national security. I will continue to fight for hardworking Alabamians who provide American-made goods and products vital to our local communities, our state, and our country.”
Alabama is the No.2 catfish-producing state in the nation. In 2021, Yellowhammer State produced almost one-third of the total pounds of catfish sold in the U.S., utilizing 15,600 water surface acres. This amounted to sales of over $1 billion, the second-highest total of any state. Additionally, a recent study conducted by the Southern Regional Aquaculture Center reported Alabama’s catfish industry contributed $496 million to the state’s economy and supported 2,109 jobs.