Congress is pretty sure you need extra help with your fish


Just in case you were wondering what Congress was doing while you were distracted with Barack Obama attempting to rewrite his own speeches (“I didn’t say that!”), rest assured that they are spending your money with your best interests at heart.

Just kidding. Congress is attempting to implement a costly (read: at least $20 million) program designed to inspect catfish for the safety of the American people.

Actually, just kidding again. Congress has spent $20 million studying whether they should implement a $30 million program that would inspect catfish for $15 million per year. Catfish, which are already inspected by the FDA, for the safety of the American people who are not particularly in danger from catfish, are, of course, already classified by US government already classifies as a “low risk” food. But whatever. We need to spend more money. For the good of freedom and America.

And you know it’s bad because John “Maverick” McCain and John “Purple Heart” Kerry, are among those leading the charge to strip the provision out of the Farm Bill.

Late last week, McCain and Kerry filed an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would eliminate the USDA catfish inspection program, signed into law as part of the 2008 Farm Bill but still in the process of being implemented.: The McCain-Kerry amendment comes as a relief to U.S. catfish and pangasius importers, who say the program is simply a protectionist measure that would curb the flow of product into the U.S. market.

“Finally, Mr. President, one of my favorites of all time is the catfish. I have an amendment that will repeal a Farm Bill provision that directs the USDA to create a new fat catfish inspection office. The amendment puts an end to the latest attempt by Southern catfish farmers to restrict catfish imports,” said McCain from the Senate floor.

“The USDA inspects meat, eggs and poultry but not seafood. That’s a whole new government office that is being developed at USDA just to inspect catfish,” he continued. “Catfish farmers have tried to argue that we need a catfish inspection office to ensure Americans are eating safe and healthy catfish. I wholeheartedly agree that catfish should be safe for consumers. The problem is FDA already inspects catfish just as it does all seafood, screening for biological and chemical hazards. If there were legitimate food-safety reasons for having the USDA inspect catfish, we would be having this discussion.”

The big argument for the Catfish Inspection Bridge to Nowhere is that it will “save the taxpayers money,” but only if you consider spending millions “saving money.” Obviously, this is perfectly logical to Congress, but not so much to the millions of people who provide the money they use to fund the projects they come up with at random in the shower. And of course, there’s that teensy little thing about the $20 million dollar study to figure out whether a new catfish program was even needed, when they could have just looked up whether the FDA inspects catfish using Google. Yep, Congress has spent $20 million of your money on inspecting catfish already and – this is key – they have yet to actually inspect a single catfish. And, of course, the bill is a boon to domestic catfish production by creating extra red tape for catfish importers, which means, of course, that we’d head straight into a trade war.

Brilliant! And, maybe this escaped notice, but what do catfish inspections have to do with a Farm Bill, anyway?

Luckily, there are still a few smart people in Congress looking to prevent shenanigans. Rep. Vicki Hartzler, who originally proposed that the catfish provisions be stripped out of the House bill, has been instrumental in attempting to keep Congress on mission and away from spending ridiculous amounts of cash on duplicative inspections of food that’s not a threat to the American people. And obviously, that’s not an easy task, asking elected officials not to spend money they don’t have and certainly don’t earn. She deserves some props. If only a few other key members had her kind of balls.

Of course, then they wouldn’t be able to justify spending $50 million on catfish.

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