Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Bob Odom said letters have been mailed to the processors telling them how much money to expect from tariffs collected on imported Chinese crawfish tailmeat. Odom expects the checks to be mailed out in coming weeks.

“I haven’t seen the letters because this is something that’s being conducted at the federal level, but I’ve been told that the amounts our processors will receive range from about $16,000 to $790,000,” Odom said.

Crawfish processors are getting the tariff money because of the Byrd Amendment, passed in October 2000, which says antidumping petitioners are to receive funds collected by U.S. Customs for their industry.

Processors originally filed an anti-dumping petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1996. An antidumping tariff was announced in September 1997 and deposits began being collected from importers.

Odom said the threat of eventual collection of the tariff worked to keep crawfish tailmeat prices around $5.50 per pound for several years. This allowed the domestic crawfish industry to compete with the imported Chinese tailmeat.

When importers realized they could find loopholes to avoid the deposits and tariffs, the threat no longer worked and prices for Chinese tailmeat rapidly descended. Odom blamed bureaucratic red tape in Washington for impeding the collection of tariffs and allowing Chinese tailmeat to continue to be sold for prices well below what the domestic industry can sell for and still make a profit.

In a February news release, Odom said, “What we have going on is a classic case of shrewd importers and their lawyers moving much faster than the snail’s pace of the federal bureaucracy.”

Department of Agriculture and Forestry officials first learned that processors would be getting the tariff money in July when they were told at least $8 million in tariffs would be available. At the time, Odom said that $8 million was just a small portion of the invoices that had been sent out at the time, but more money might be collected by the end of the federal fiscal year in September.

“Throughout this whole procedure I really didn’t know what to expect. There were times when I thought our processors would never see any results from the tariff,” Odom said. “But I am extremely thankful for what we’re getting now.”

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com