As Mid-South catfish acreage drops, how might Congress help the industry?

“Our delegation is trying to provide some sort of feed vouchers in conjunction with the flooding disasters in the Midwest,” says Wayne Branton, Arkansas Catfish Farmer Association president. “That flooding, of course, is also a factor in the rising cost of feed.”

However, Branton says he’s been told any such help won’t come before the November elections.

“It’s just a wait-and-see sort of thing,” he says. “You can’t run a farm on that.”

Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln said the Arkansas delegation is well aware of the circumstances plaguing catfish producers.

“We’re desperately working with colleagues from other (catfish-producing) states, particularly Mississippi, to try to find some relief in the emergency disaster supplemental,” she said during a July 24 conference call with journalists. “We’ve been talking to the staff at the Appropriations Committee trying to bring this home to them, to show the severe circumstances our fish farmers and aquaculture are experiencing.”

Producers are “paying more for feed and the number of fingerlings being purchased are drastically down. Producers can’t afford to feed the fingerlings for (the price they’ll receive) at the end of the process.”

Retiring ponds would be “devastating for an industry we’ve carefully and tenderly developed. It’s very productive and a good alternative to row-crops.

“We’ve had some pretty good responses from staff and other members. But the bill isn’t completed so we’ll keep pushing hard.”

e-mail: dbennett@farmpress.com