Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Farm Raised Catfish at the Mid-South Fair

September 30, 2009 12:33 PM Eastern Daylight Time
U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is Fan Favorite at Mid-South Fair
SOUTHAVEN, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Catfish Institute (TCI), along with Chef Ivo Puidak of the “Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest” television series, performed cooking demonstrations last weekend at the Mid-South Fair featuring tasty U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish. Ken Freeman, of Freeman Outdoor Promotions was also on-hand with the world’s largest mobile aquarium, featuring live catfish, bass and perch.

“U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is a product I am proud to support,” said Chef Ivo. “It’s earth-friendly, healthy and versatile. That versatility makes it the perfect substitute in most recipes. Doing cooking demonstrations and providing food samples at the Mid-South Fair is a way to remind people of this great seafood product. It’s American-grown – it just can’t be beat.”

In addition to Chef Ivo’s cooking demonstrations, Freeman provided entertainment through catfish races, in which three participants raced catfish through a drag-strip-style fish corral.

“I enjoy preparing events for people to come and learn about the fish, and have a good time as well,” said Freeman. “The aquarium, catfish races and free food samples draw them over to our area, and then we are able to remind them of the healthfulness and down-home goodness of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish.”

TCI representatives were also on-hand this weekend to provide recipe booklets, hand-held “I’m a fan of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish” fans and free bottles of a seafood sauce to help encourage fair-goers to try cooking catfish at home.

Freeman will continue to provide free tastings of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish throughout the week of September 28th.

The Catfish Institute was founded in 1986 by catfish feed mills and their producer members with the goal of raising consumer awareness about the benefits of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish. To learn more about U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish, view our web site at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fed to Review Frozen Fish Fillet Antidumping Order

(CN) - Catfish Farmers of America convinced the Department of Commerce to reconsider an antidumping order on frozen fish fillets from Vietnam.
The agency agreed that it needed to review aspects of the order and asked the Court of International Trade for a remand, which the court granted.
The department will reconsider international freight expense, the valuation of labels, and the calculation of the surrogate value for fish oil for QVC Foods Inc.
The court dismissed the remaining challenges to the antidumping order.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fisheries Try Farm Raising Bass

Fisheries try farm-raising bass
Researchers study potential for selling largemouths’ meat
By Mike Linn

PINE BLUFF — For every bass fisherman, there’s a bass story.

One might go something like this: “I hooked a whopper out on Lake Monticello, fought it hard and then watched it jump and spit the hook out. I slammed my rod down. Ah, the one that got away.”

Largemouth bass is the most sought-after freshwater sport fish in Arkansas and in the United States, said Colton Dennis, black-bass program supervisor with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The white, fleshy meat of the bass is good to eat, but unlike catfish and tilapia, it’s not regularly sold in restaurants or supermarkets.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Aquaculture and Fisheries Department are attempting to find out why that’s the case.

They’re conducting studies to see whether it’s cost effective to farm-raise largemouth bass to sell in supermarkets as uncooked filets or to prepare and sell in seafood restaurants.

UAPB Aquaculture and Fisheries Department Chairman Carole Engle said the idea for the project was spawned after UAPB conducted focus group surveys in Little Rockon the marketability of hybrid striped bass.

During the surveys, most of the participants kept steering the conversation to largemouth bass, a fish with which they were more familiar.

“A lot of the people we talked to, regardless which group they were in, liked the idea of largemouth bass filets being available,” Engle said. “They had a very positive attitude toward largemouth bass filets and said they would be very, very receptive to purchasing filets.”

Engle said part of why they’re not widely commercially available now is that feed for largemouth bass, which survive on high-protein diets, is more expensive than feed for catfish. Because of this, largemouth bass filets would have to sell at a higher price than comparable catfish filets in grocery stores and restaurants.

Arkansas has the second largest aquaculture industry in the country, behind Mississippi.

Half of the state’s production is farm-raised catfish, which swim the same rivers and lakes as largemouth bass and are widely available in Arkansas supermarkets, restaurants and even gas stations.

“There are a lot of people who like to eat [largemouth] bass, especially in this state. But it may be that the fish are too expensive to raise compared to what people are willing to pay in the supermarket,” Engle said.

Engle, who earned her doctorate in aquaculture economics from Auburn University in Alabama, said, “We will do an economic analysis to see if it’s feasible.”

In Arkansas, largemouth bass is considered a game fish - just like crappie and trout - and cannot be sold after being caught in the wild, even if the fisherman has a commercial fishing license, said Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

However, largemouth bass can be farm-raised in Arkansas and sold as food by those with a fish-farming license, Stephens said.

That license is available for $25 and can be renewed annually for free.

At Kentucky State University, the university’s division of aquaculture has been farm-raising largemouth bass for nearly 20 years to sell live in markets in Toronto and Chicago.

Jim Tidwell, chairman of the aquaculture department at Kentucky State, said he sells the fish for about $5 a pound live to those markets, and retail buyers purchase the fish for as much as $11 a pound.

Largemouth bass are more expensive to farm-raise than catfish, Tidwell said, noting that catfish feed costs $350 a ton, compared with $800 to $1,000 a ton for bass feed.

A bass has two filets, which together equal about 40 percent of its body weight, Tidwell said.

If a largemouth bass is filleted, it could sell wholesale for about $12 a pound, he said. After markup, the largemouth bass filets could go for $15 or more a pound in a supermarket, Tidwell estimated.

While expensive like swordfish and Chilean sea bass, largemouth bass produced on a fish farm tastes better than bass caught in the wild, Tidwell thinks.

“I don’t really care for wild-caught bass, especially when the water is warm, but these guys raised on pellets, to me, are much better-tasting,” Tidwell said. “They taste just like a great big blue gill [bream]. They’re first cousin to a blue gill, and a blue gill has a real sweet taste that’s really kind of unique.”

There are at least three fish farms in Arkansas that raise largemouth bass to be sold live in seafood markets, said Mike Freeze, a former Arkansas Game and Fish commissioner and the vice president of KeoFish Farms in Keo.

The owner of one of those farms - David Dunn of Dunn’s Fish Farm in Monroe south of Brinkley - said he gets $4.75 a pound for a live bass. His price for filets would be $9.50 a pound, and by the time it would hit the supermarket it could be as high as $16 a pound, he said.

“Right now, people in the United States would not purchase largemouth bass in supermarkets because there’s too many inexpensive alternatives,” Dunn said. “Right now, you can go out and buy steaks for everybody in the family a lot cheaper than you can feed them bass.”

Still, UAPB researchers want to find out what kind of yields they get in the 12 ponds stocked with largemouth bass, four with 7,500 fish, four with 5,000 fish and four with 2,500 fish.

Engle said UAPB will harvest the bass next month, when the fish would be about 18 months old.

“We don’t know yet how big they are,” Engle said. “Part of what we want to find out with this study is whether we’re farm-raising them long enough to get these fish to a size where we can get a filet off.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Arkansas Senator over Ag Committe

Ark. Sen. Lincoln new head of Senate ag committee
By JILL ZEMAN BLEED (AP) – 14 hours ago

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sen. Blanche Lincoln will become the first woman to head the Senate agriculture committee under leadership changes made because of Ted Kennedy's death.

Lincoln, D-Ark., said implementing the new federal farm bill and ending the trade embargo with Cuba are among the top issues facing the Senate panel.

"I've always supported opening up trade with Cuba, and I'll continue to do so. I can't single-handedly make it happen as chairman of the committee," she said Wednesday, adding that she would do her best to keep the issue front and center.

Lincoln takes over from Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who will replace Kennedy as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in a series of leadership changes announced Wednesday.

"As a seventh-generation Arkansan and farmer's daughter, I know my father is smiling down on me today," Lincoln said.

Lincoln is a supporter of government farm subsidies who has served on Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry January 1999. When she was a congresswoman, she served on the House Agriculture Committee from 1993-1995.

Lincoln said the committee has always been a top choice for her during her time in Congress.

"As the chairman, I'm going to again enjoy an elevated opportunity to really help our state, and that's exactly what I'll be aiming to do," she said.

Farm advocates in her home state praised the move, saying they hoped it would increase the state's clout on agricultural issues.

"Agriculture is the largest industry in our state," said Randy Veach, president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau. "Her being in that position gives us an opportunity to keep agriculture financially sound and stable."

Lincoln said she ended up first in line for the job because other more senior senators — Sens. Max Baucus, Kent Conrad and Patrick Leahy — already serve as chairmen of other committees.

"The ag committee is a very old committee, and it's also a very senior committee in the sense that most of the members have been on there for quite some time, and that means there's not a lot of turnover in terms of chairmanship," she said.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Lincoln downplayed the notion that the new role would make her more politically powerful as she runs for re-election next year.

"I fully expect there'll be many challengers out there. It's kind of the season for that, I suppose," she said.

Six Republicans have announced bids for Lincoln's seat, and state Senate President Bob Johnson says he's considering challenging her in the Democratic primary. Lincoln has more than $3.2 million cash on hand for her re-election bid.

Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said he wasn't optimistic that Lincoln would be able to help farmers in the new position, saying Lincoln does not stand firm against President Barack Obama.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A PhD program

Ark. campus aims for school of fisheries doctors
By: The Associated Press | 04 Sep 2009 |

Studying fish once seemed so simple: find out where they were biting and keep it under your hat. Now the study of fish has evolved into Ph.D.-level programs that can make fish bigger, tastier and a larger part of the nation's economy.

The University of Arkansas' board of trustees on Friday approved a doctoral program for the Aquaculture-Fisheries Center of Excellence at its Pine Bluff campus. It's the first Ph.D. program for the 3,000-student campus at the edge of the Arkansas Delta.

"I don't think I've ever seen a stronger and more positive review" of a program proposal, UA system vice president for university relations Dan Ferritor told the UA system board at a meeting Friday in Little Rock.

The doctoral program could give a boost to Pine Bluff, hurt in recent decades by relocation of railroad jobs to other sites and closure of several industries, as well as by the current recession.

Smaller communities in the depressed Delta region should also benefit, as aquaculture farming operations take advantage of the scientific and practical expertise that UAPB has built up over more than 20 years. The nation's largest fish-feed plant, ARKAT Nutrition, operates in Dumas, population 5,200, working closely with the UAPB program.

While a typical image of fishing involves dropping a line from a bamboo pole, formalized fish farming has been a part of the Arkansas economy for decades.

UAPB opened its Aquaculture-Fisheries Center in 1988 to work with fish farmers of all varieties: catfish farmers raising meat for dining tables, baitfish farmers raising minnows for anglers' hooks, and others raising ornamental goldfish or goldfish that will end up as food for larger ornamentals in aquariums.

All the feeder goldfish raised in the country come from Arkansas, said Carole Engle, the center's director.

In addition to conducting research and training people seeking careers in natural fisheries or fish-farming, the center is a major resource for Arkansas' $130 million fish-farming industry. It also trains people in natural fisheries disciplines who go on to work for agencies like the state Game and Fish Commission and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We've become famous for finding ways to diagnose" problems at fish farms, said Andy Goodwin, the center's associate director and lab chief. Such problems, he said, can involve sick or dying fish, or fish that simply don't grow at the usual rate.

"UAPB has been more proactive in working toward solutions to our recent problems than any other university, with new feed, economics, marketing and management studies," said Joe Lowery, president of the Catfish Farmers of America.

Those problems include fish diseases, nutritional problems, parasites and mechanical difficulties that might affect production, according to UAPB faculty.

Arkansas, Alabama and Mississippi are the leading catfish-farming states, with 166 catfish farms in Arkansas, 268 in Alabama and 451 in Mississippi in 2007 — the latest year for which figures are available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Arkansas alone sold about 10 million pounds of catfish that year, the USDA said.

Engle said other schools with fisheries degrees encouraged UAPB to consider a doctoral program, given commercial fishing's importance in the Arkansas and Mississippi deltas. If approved by the state Higher Education Coordinating Board — a step expected by next spring — the first candidates will be accepted in fall 2010. Graduates will likely end up researching in the private sector or teaching.

Since its founding, the Aquaculture-Fisheries Center has graduated 85 people with bachelor's degrees and 55 with master's degrees. Nearly half of the graduate degree recipients went on to pursue doctorates elsewhere. The bulk of those with B.A.s pursued an advanced degree or went to work for government agencies.

Nekea Walker, a recruiter for the fisheries-aquaculture program, said the availability of a terminal-degree track can be a big incentive to students considering the school's undergraduate or master's programs.

"Having a Ph.D. program on this campus not only helps our department, it helps the whole campus," said Walker, who worked in the fisheries programs when she was an undergraduate.

"It helps the whole state," Engle said.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Steeve Pomerleau In New Position

Our best wishes and high hopes for Steeve Pomerleave, Aquaculture Extension Specialist at UAPB, go with him as he begins a new career as production manager for America's Catch in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Steeve has been a true blessing for the industry and the university.

We thank you Steeve for all of your hard work and dedicattion.

Good Luck!

Arkansas Grown Website Available

New Arkansas Grown Website Availabe
Laura Wise, Deputy Director of Aquaculture,Arkansas Agriculture Department
The website link listed below was developed by the Arkansas Agriculture Department (AAD) to help potential buyers locate Arkansas producers. Any resident of Arkansas who produces an agricultural product in our state may, at no charge, list their marketing information here. AAD may also make this information available for distribution in other formats.

The information provided is suppled by the producer and its listing does not imply any sponsorship or endorsement by AAD. While an effort is made to verify the information submitted, AAD cannot guarantee its accuracy. The same can be said for links to other websites. THese hyperlinks are provided as a service and we try to ensure their appropriateness. However, AAD does not assume any responsibility for the appropriateness or accuracy of the content of any linked site.

Arkansas Agriculture is diverse in crops and scale of production. So no matter what you are looking for Arkansas farmers probably produce it and we hope the content provided here at helps you find it.

The site address is:

Arkansas Catfish Promotion Board

Governor Mike Beebe has re-appointed Bari Cain of McCrory, Jerry Williamson of Lake Village, and Bill Trout of Dermott to the Arkansas Catfish Promotion Board. Their terms will expire on June 30, 2011.

The Arkansas Catfish Promotion Board is an advisory committee comprised of catfish farmers who oversee the funding of various promotional activities and universtiy research projects.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Times are tough

Mississippi catfish industry struggles
Sep 2, 2009 9:27 AM, By Bonnie Coblentz, MSU Ag Communications

Mississippi’s catfish industry is facing some major obstacles as producers are dealing with very high feed prices, declining acreage and fierce competition from imported fish.

John Anderson, Mississippi State University Extension Service agricultural economist, said the most significant influence on catfish prices since the fall of 2008 has been the condition of the overall economy.

“Catfish demand suffered from the economic decline that began in early 2008 and accelerated rapidly with the financial crisis last fall,” Anderson said. “Products like catfish that depend significantly on away-from-home consumption tend to be hurt the worst during a recession.”

As evidence of this weak demand, prices are lower this summer than last year’s prices, and production has also been down by 5 percent to 10 percent.

“Hopefully the economy will move into a recovery phase in the latter half of this year,” Anderson said. “An economic upturn corresponding with less catfish production this year than last should provide the basis for a recovery in prices by sometime this fall.”

Mississippi has just 70,000 acres of catfish ponds, down from a high of 113,000 acres in 2001. The state still leads the nation in catfish production. Feed prices that only a few years ago were about $240 a ton are now $330 a ton.

Jim Steeby, Extension fisheries specialist at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville, Miss., said increasing imports of catfish and whitefish such as tilapia are putting pressure on catfish sales.

“Growers in these countries, especially China, have low-cost labor, favorable currency rates and support from their governments. Their prices are well below those of our domestically produced catfish,” Steeby said. “But their production standards frequently lack integrity.”

The industry is trying to battle imports and establish U.S. farm-raised catfish as a superior product. Recent federal and state labeling laws now require catfish served in restaurants and sold at retail to have country of origin labels.

The industry is also addressing the issue of imports by attempting to move the catfish inspection program from the National Marine Fisheries Service to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Changing the inspecting agency to USDA will mean that imports must meet more stringent requirements for safety and quality,” Steeby said. “The problem with many food imports is that some products contain substances such as antibiotics that do not meet U.S. safety and health standards.”

Steeby said the USDA is setting up this inspection program, which will subject catfish to the same type of food inspection required of poultry and red meat.

“If imports cannot meet these new standards, they will not be allowed in,” Steeby said.

Researchers at MSU continue to work with the industry as it adjusts to economic conditions. Current projects are focused on feed management, possible improvements to the refinement of grains and other feed ingredients, and ways to manage feed budgets more effectively.

“Other researchers at MSU are looking at genetic issues and possibly producing catfish hybrids that have faster growth rates and resistance to common disease organisms,” Steeby said.

In the meantime, Mississippi producers continue to try to find success with catfish.

“Catfish may be headed back to being marketed as a Southeastern specialty as the industry is downsizing,” Steeby said. “Consumers in the Southeast are not likely to accept a substitute product for U.S. farm-raised catfish.”