Cutting Waste


Tom Coburn1

In times of fiscal austerity does the USDA Catfish Inspection Program make sense?

The USDA Catfish Inspection program is widely known in Washington as a colossal waste of tax dollars and has been described in the media as the new “bridge to nowhere.” The Government’s own Accountability Office and countless budget watchdog organizations have singled out this program that has spent $20 million in four years (while not inspecting a single fish) and is on track to spend $165 million more, as a program that does not make sense.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) knows the USDA Catfish Inspection Problem is a waste.

Just how many times has GAO targeted this program as part of its effort to get rid of wasteful government programs? Ten times: February 2011, March 2011, May 2012, February 2013, April 2013, April 2014, December 2014February 2015, April 2015, April 2016.

  • “Congress should consider repealing provisions of the Farm Bill assigning USDA responsibility for catfish inspection.”
  • “If [the] proposed program were implemented, GAO expects it would cause duplication and inefficient use of resources in several key areas.”
  • “…the agency’s proposed catfish inspection program further fragments the federal oversight system for food safety without demonstrating that there is a problem with catfish or a need for a new federal program.”
  • “With… implementation of [the] proposed catfish inspection program, responsibility for overseeing seafood safety would be further divided and would duplicate existing federal programs at a cost.”

“In unusually blunt language, Congress’ top auditor told the federal government last week to scrap plans for a special catfish-inspection program, saying the new office lawmakers approved just a few years ago is turning out to be a waste of money.”
Washington Times June 12, 2012

Members of Congress know the USDA Catfish Inspection Program is a waste.

  •  “I am working to end wasteful and duplicative programs like the catfish inspection regime.”
      –Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
  •  “Unless we act, not only will this initiative continue to waste millions of tax dollars, it will also split seafood inspection responsibilities between two different federal agencies, undermine our food safety system and put consumers at risk.”
    Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
  •  “If there were legitimate food safety reasons for having USDA inspect catfish, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
    Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
  • “[It is a] train wreck. … Two duplicative and competing sets of regulations is a job killer that has nothing to do with food safety…”
    Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)

Budget Watchdogs know the USDA Catfish Inspection Program is a waste.

  • “This program is yet another wasteful and duplicative federal program which has the potential to negatively impact the U.S. economy.”
    Republican Study Committee
  • “Congress needs to eliminate this new regulation immediately because taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for more bloated bureaucracy.”
    Taxpayers Protection Alliance
  • “…At a cost of some $30 million just to get the catfish inspection program up and running, it stands as a case study in why our agriculture policy desperately needs reform.”
    Public Notice

The Media know the USDA Catfish Inspection Program is a waste.

  • Senators have voted to repeal outright the provision of the 2008 farm bill that shifted catfish oversight to USDA from the FDA. This is good budgeting, good science and good diplomacy.”
    Wall Street Journal Editorial 06.21.12
  • “It would be funny if it weren’t so costly and probably illegal. On health-and-safety grounds, both the 2008 law and USDA’s moves to enforce it make little sense.”
    Wall Street Journal Editorial 02.22.11





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