Friday, July 31, 2009

August is National Catfish Month!

Celebrate by Supporting American Agriculture

JACKSON, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--To honor the hard work and innovations of U.S. catfish farmers, the month of August was designated as National Catfish Month in the late 1980s. But the U.S. catfish industry’s contributions to our nation’s health and economy have never been more vital than they are today, as illustrated by recent imported seafood scares.

Of course, it’s the perfectly mild flavor that made U.S. catfish so popular in the first place, and the strict standards of U.S. catfish farmers ensure superior freshness and taste. Blackened, broiled, grilled or fried – U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish works in virtually any recipe, which makes celebrating National Catfish Month pretty easy. Just make sure to look for the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish seal in the grocery store, and ask before you order if you don’t see it on the menu at your favorite restaurant.

“August is National U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish Month, and it’s a great opportunity to enjoy the many delicious preparations of this versatile, all-American fish,” says Roger Barlow, president of The Catfish Institute (TCI). “Long-regarded as a Southern staple, U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is now being embraced across the country not only because of its health benefits, quality assurance and environmental safety, but also because it is American-grown and widely available.”

U.S. catfish are raised in pure freshwater ponds and fed a nutrient-rich diet of floating grain pellets. This extremely eco-friendly farming practice also eliminates the “fishy” taste found in other varieties of fish.

The majority of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is produced on family-owned farms in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana, where many of these growers are second- or third-generation farmers. Since the farms and processing plants exist in primarily rural areas, catfish farming provides a significant source of revenue and employment.

“Our goal at TCI is to educate consumers about what a wonderful, home-grown product we have in U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish,” says Barlow. “When consumers purchase catfish labeled with the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish seal, they are supporting our nation’s farmers and providing jobs to tens of thousands of Americans.”

Remember the hardworking American farmers during National Catfish Month and purchase products grown in the U.S.A., including U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish.

This August, try Grilled Catfish Over Mixed Salad Greens as a healthy, tasty option for your family.

Grilled Catfish Over Mixed Salad Greens

2 U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish fillets
1/4 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon)
1 small shallot, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups mixed salad greens such as arugula, chicory, escarole, mustard and radicchio, washed and torn into bite-size pieces and dried

1. Place catfish fillet strips and mushrooms in a shallow dish. Mix olive oil, vinegar, tarragon, shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl using a wire whisk until well blended.
2. Pour two-thirds of the marinade over the catfish. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate. Reserve remaining marinade to use as salad dressing.
3. Prepare a grill or preheat the broiler.
4. Place catfish fillets on an oiled grill rack or broiler pan rack. Grill or broil 4 inches from the heat source for 2 or 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Allow to cool slightly; serve warm.
5. Toss salad greens, mushrooms and reserved marinade in a large bowl. Top with grilled catfish.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Food Safety Organizations, U.S. Congressman Voice Support for USDA Inspections for Catfish

July 29, 2009 04:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time

JACKSON, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In letters sent last week to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, three of the nation’s largest food safety watchdog groups and a U.S. Congressman voiced their support for USDA inspections for domestic and imported catfish species, as mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill.

The first letter was sent jointly by the Consumer Federation of America, the largest consumer group in the United States; Food and Water Watch, the largest public interest food watchdog group; and Safe Tables Our Priority, a coalition of consumer and food safety advocates, on July 23, 2009.

Excerpts from the jointly signed letter:

We hope you will use the new responsibility given to the USDA by the 2008 Farm Bill to design a program that requires specific safety standards for both domestic and imported catfish, as the agency currently does for meat and poultry,” the letter stated, speaking to Sec. Vilsack.

Consumers have good reason to demand that imported catfish be raised and processed under similar safety standards as domestic catfish. Since June 1, 2008, the FDA has rejected catfish products imported from China, Thailand and Vietnam a total of thirty one times. Thailand was responsible for two refusals, China was responsible for thirteen, and Vietnamese catfish products were rejected a total of sixteen times.

The intent of Congress in creating this new inspection program for catfish was to assure that catfish was safely produced and processed for consumers. Since the majority of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported, it is crucial that any new standards and inspection program for catfish apply to both domestic and imported species.

In a separate letter to Sec. Vilsack from Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, the lawmaker recalls a trip to tour Vietnamese seafood processing facilities in December 2008, where he noted the aquaculture conditions were less than favorable and the fish were unfit for American consumption.

Excerpts from Congressman Boswell’s letter:

Currently there is no mandate to inspect or certify that foreign seafood plants meet standards equivalent to those in the United States, though such mandates exist for other meat proteins,” Boswell stated in his letter to Sec. Vilsack.

During my most recent trip to the Mekong Delta, I saw the putrid conditions in which these fish are raised. I saw raw sewage and drainage pipes leading directly into the Mekong Delta upstream from where the fish farms are located.”

The FDA only voluntarily inspects less than one percent of total food imports and less than two percent of seafood from foreign plants. This is frightening and unacceptable.”

Unedited copies of both letters are available:

Congressman Leonard Boswell's Letter: In a letter sent last week to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-IA) voiced his support for USDA inspections for domestic and imported catfish species, as mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill.

Food safety watchdog groups letter: In a letter sent last week to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, three of the nation's largest food safety watchdog groups voiced their support for USDA inspections for domestic and imported catfish species, as mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill.

For more information about the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry and its support of USDA inspections for catfish, visit

Catfish Farmers of America
Taylor Webb, 601-206-1600

Monday, July 27, 2009

Foodfish Inventory Numbers Down 9 Percent from a Year Ago

Foodfish Inventory Numbers Down 9 Percent from a Year Ago

Catfish operations in the three major producing States (Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi) had 241 million foodsize fish on hand on July 1, 2009, down 9 percent from the July 1, 2008 total of 265 million foodsize fish. The breakouts of foodsize fish inventory numbers on July 1, 2009, with their respective percent change from the previous year were: large foodsize, 6.58 million fish, up 3 percent; medium foodsize, 59.3 million fish, down 16 percent; and small foodsize, 175 million fish, down 7 percent.

The three major States also had 529 thousand broodfish on hand on July 1, 2009, down 19 percent from last year's 655 thousand broodfish.

The number of large stockers on hand on July 1, 2009, totaled 231 million fish, down 21 percent from the 293 million fish on hand a year ago. There were 216 million small stockers, down 25 percent from last year. Producers had 877 million fingerlings and fry on hand on July 1, 2009

Water Acres Down 15 Percent

The water surface area to be used for catfish production during July 1 through December 31, 2009, totaled 112 thousand acres, down 15 percent from a year ago. Acres used for foodsize fish totaled 92.5 thousand acres, down 15 percent from the same time period in 2008. Acres for broodfish decreased 5 percent to 2.41 thousand acres, and acres used for fingerling production decreased 19 percent to 14.5 thousand acres. Acres taken out of production during the January 1, 2009 through June 30, 2009 period totaled 11.4 thousand acres, while 3.09 thousand acres of the total in production were scheduled to be renovated from July 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009. The number of operations on July 1, 2009 in the three major States totaled 613, down 22 percent from last year's total of 788 operations.

Released July 24, 2009, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture. For information on "Catfish Production" call Chris Hawthorn at (202) 720-0585, office hours 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET.

The U.S. Catfish Industry Stands Firm, Maintains Support for USDA Inspections

July 24, 2009 06:06 PM Eastern Daylight Time

JACKSON, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Because consumer confidence in safe and healthy seafood is critical, the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish industry maintains its support for USDA inspections.

U.S. consumers currently believe that their seafood is subject to the same rigorous inspection standards as those imposed on meat and poultry products, but current FDA inspection programs are hardly adequate to handle the nation’s demand for seafood. As a result, the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish Industry supports Congress’s recommendation to transfer catfish inspection responsibilities to the USDA and its Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).

“Aquaculture is agriculture, plain and simple; our catfish are grown by farmers, not fisherman,” said Roger Barlow, president of The Catfish Institute. “Because of this, it simply makes sense that our industry be regulated by the appropriate administration.”

Seafood consumption in the United States now exceeds 4.9 billion pounds annually, and of this amount, over 83% are imported. Under current FDA regulations, more than 99% of seafood imports do not undergo inspection. Furthermore, only a fraction of that amount is tested for contamination with illegal drugs and chemicals. Specifically, from May 2008 to May 2009, 14 Vietnamese pangasius (basa/tra/swai) shipments were refused entry by the FDA.

“Catfish farmers want consumers of our product to be protected by the one food safety system that is actually working and instills confidence – USDA inspection,” said Joey Lowery, president of Catfish Farmers of America (CFA).

The meat, eggs and poultry that U.S. consumers eat are all subject to rigorous and continuous inspection by FSIS, regardless of whether they are produced domestically or imported. All production and processing practices are strictly and uniformly regulated, ensuring consumers that what they feed their families is safe and of the highest quality.

According to Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, who led a delegation of Committee members to Vietnam in December 2008, the water Vietnamese catfish are raised in is “putrid” and unfit for aquaculture. “This stands in stark contrast to the U.S. catfish farms which are subject to rigid environmental and health standards, ensuring a safe, healthy and sustainable product,” said Barlow.

The U.S. catfish industry fully supports fair trade for seafood products, but not at the expense of food safety and the health of the American consumer.

Catfish Farmers of America
Taylor Webb, 601-206-1600

Videos available here

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Arkansas is first to issue funds from the 2008 Aquaculture Grant Program

Ted McNulty, Director of Aquaculture at the Arkansas Agriculture Department, announced that the federal stimulus funds from the 2008 Aquaculture Grant Program were mailed to Arkansas fish farmers on July 20th. Mr. Robert Araiza and his staff at the Arkansas Forestry Commission are to be commended for getting these checks out in record time. Arkansas is the first State to issue the funds from the 2008 AGP and some states are over a month away from releasing those funds.

Bus Tour of a USA Catfish Farm

Uncle Cat invite you to take a virtual bus tour of a USA Catfish Farm at:

June 2009 Catfish Feed Deliveries Down 21 Percent from Last Year

Total catfish feed delivered in the United States during June was 96,580 tons, down 21 percent from June 2008, but up 62 percent from the previous month. Foodsize catfish feed delivered totaled 93,389 tons, down 23 percent from the corresponding month a year ago. Feed delivered for fingerlings and broodfish totaled 3,191 tons, up 82 percent from the corresponding month a year ago.

June feed delivered to Mississippi catfish growers for foodsize fish totaled 45,116 tons, down 29 percent from last year. Mississippi accounted for 48 percent of the total foodsize catfish feed delivered to U.S. farmers.

The other major States with catfish feed deliveries for foodsize fish in June and their comparison to the previous year were Alabama with 29,018 tons, down 16 percent; Arkansas with 10,882 tons, down 27 percent; and Louisiana with 1,822 tons, down 8 percent.

Released July 21, 2009, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture. For information on "Catfish Feed Deliveries" call Charles Butler at 601-965-4575, office hours 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT.

Catfish Processing in June Down 9 Percent from Last Year

Farm-raised catfish processed during June 2009 totaled 39.2 million pounds round weight, down 9 percent from June 2008. The average price paid to producers was 76.3 cents per pound for June 2009, up 0.1 cent from last month but 3.1 cents below a year ago.

Net pounds of processed fish sold during June 2009 totaled 19.0 million pounds, down 12 percent from the comparable month in 2008. The total end of the month inventory increased 2 percent from last month but was down 15 percent from a year ago. Sales of fresh fish, at 6.95 million pounds, were down 14 percent from June 2008 and represented 37 percent of total sales. Frozen fish sales, at 12.1 million pounds, were down 10 percent from a year ago and accounted for the remaining 63 percent of
total fish sales. Sales of whole fish represented 17 percent of the total fish sold, fillets accounted for 62 percent, and the remaining 21 percent were mostly steaks, nuggets, and value added products.

The June 2009 average price received by processors for total fresh fish was $2.47 per pound, down 5 cents from last year. Prices for fresh whole fish were $1.64 per pound, down 4 cents from June 2008. Prices for fresh fillets were up 14 cents from a year ago at $3.22 per pound. Total frozen fish averaged $2.53 per pound, up 7 cents from June 2008. Prices for frozen whole dressed fish were up 4 cents at $2.19 and frozen fillets at $2.91 per pound were down 1 cent from a year ago.

Freshwater imports for consumption of Ictalurus spp., Pangasius spp., and other catfish of the order Siluriformes for May 2009 totaled 11.6 million pounds, up 14 percent from the amount imported in May 2008. Imports were from Cambodia, China, Guyana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Ictalurus spp. imports totaled 1.66 million pounds, which were from China, Guyana, Mexico, Spain, and Thailand.

Fresh boneless catfish fillet exports totaled 79.1 thousand pounds, with 37.4 thousand pounds going to Canada and the rest going to China, the Turks & Caicos Islands and the United Kingdom. Exports of frozen, boneless catfish fillets reported for May 2009 totaled 14.2 thousand pounds, going to the Bahamas, China-Taipei, Guatemala, Kuwait, the Netherlands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Released July 20, 2009, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture. For information on "Catfish Processing" call Chris Hawthorn at (202) 720-0585, office hours 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET.

Intent of the catfish industry is consumer safety

While many accusations have been leveled at the domestic catfish industry and its pursuit of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections, the intent of the U.S. catfish industry has always been very clear - consumer safety.

U.S. consumers currently believe that their seafood is subject to the same rigorous inspection standards as those imposed on meat and poultry products. However, that is not the case under the existing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, and the domestic catfish industry is dedicated to fighting for increased consumer food safety.

Seafood consumption in the United States now exceeds 4.9 billion pounds annually. Of this amount, over 83% is imported, and less than one percent of our seafood imports ever sees an inspector. Furthermore, only a fraction of that amount is ever tested for contamination from illegal drugs and chemicals.

It is of great concern that inspections by the Canadian government along the U.S. border and testing by the agriculture departments of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi have found dangerous and illegal drugs and chemicals in Asian fish imports that had already been cleared by the FDA. To say that the FDA leaves U.S. consumers vulnerable is an understatement.

The first and foremost responsibility of the elected officials of this country is to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens. The assurance that the food we eat is safe should be an integral part of that responsibility. Taking action to eliminate any threat to the safety of the American public, including food safety, should be non-negotiable and off-the-table in any political arena.

Let's hope our elected officials do the right thing.

Joey Lowery
President, Catfish Farmers of America
Indianola, Miss.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

USDA catfish inspections: Vietnamese fish to be included?

Last year, the federal Farm Bill included a provision that would authorize the federal government to shift the inspection of “catfish” from the Food and Drug Administration to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The question has been: Will pangasius catfish imported from Vietnam be subject to those new USDA inspections? The decision of Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, is expected soon. However, according to the Associated Press on July 15th, "a draft recommendation being circulated at the agency calls for the Vietnamese fish to be included."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Catfish sales slip; feed costs to blame

By Matt Harris
Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Pages 21, 26 on 07/14/2009
(Read the full article here)

LITTLE ROCK — Sales by U.S. catfish farmers are down 13.5 percent through the first five months of 2009, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


The decrease is not unexpected. High feed prices, driven by higher soybean and corn costs, continue to force producers to cut back, said Carol Engle, director of Aquaculture/Fisheries Center at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“They’re trying everything they can,” she said of the strategies used by farmers.


Engle said that feed prices began declining in March, granting farmers a reprieve from prices that were up to $425 a ton in 2008. But the price of soybean meal rose, pushing feed prices above $400 a ton again.

“It’s just going through the roof,” Engle said.

By backing off on stocking, farmers reduce the amount of feed they use without risking under-feeding. It also means farmers aerate ponds less often, keeping energy costs down.

“If the fish are closer to market size, you can back off on feeding and you won't lose growth,” Engle said. “With smaller fish,you really need to be feeding them every day.”

Farmers await the arrival of $7.8 million in federal funds that were doled out as part of economic stimulus package.

Ted McNulty, director of aquaculture for the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, said checks to 121 producers worth $7.1 million should be in the mail by the end of the week, with the expected approval by Gov. Mike Beebe’s office.

The department will continue to accept applications for the remaining money from producers until July 31, McNulty said.


The arrival of those checks is critical, Engle said.

“The sooner that happens, the sooner farmers will start feeding” at normal levels, meaning a potential increase in production, she said.

There is also hope that a federal inspection program, which will require foreign countries to demonstrate that their inspection systems are equivalent to the U.S. process, could curb the amount of imported fish that are sometimes grown using chemicals and heavily subsidized.

Engle said that if the program is in place by year’s end, it could level the playing field for domestic catfish producers.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Smartphones sprout on farms

Here is a link to a cool article published by CNN on the use of smartphones and social networking media by farmers. I would be curious to know how popular the use of smartphones and social networking media are among catfish farmers. Any thoughts on that and how it could be use to benefit fish farmers?