Along with agriculture and oil and gas, the seafood industry is an important economic driver for south Louisiana.
U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, whose 3rd Congressional District covers St. Mary and St. Martin parishes and extends to the Texas border said he does not want to see producers in such an important industry for the state working at a disadvantage, something he said has been happening because of the amount of foreign seafood coming into this country that is not held to the same standards.
“Louisiana fishermen deserve a level playing field,” Higgins said.
Higgins introduced House Bill 6212 in an effort to try to level that playing field. The Imported Seafood Safety Standards Act of 2018 would mandate by federal law that imported seafood meet the same standards to which local fisherman are held. The bill is currently in committee.
“It mandates that imported seafood,” Higgins said, “has to be harvested, processed, packaged, shipped and delivered to the same standards that American processors have to deal with.
“Believe it or not, there is no such law.”
Higgins’ proposed bill would require 20 percent of all seafood imported to the U.S. be tested.
“Right now,” Higgins said, “it’s a leap to say that we are testing 1 percent. I am told that one pound in 100,000 pounds of seafood is tested.
“Guys, you don’t know what you are eating.”
The bill would also have 100 percent of the first 15 shipments of a new company tested. Higgins said that will enable foreign producers from placing a new label on the same product.
“They have been doing this for years,” Higgins said. “They will have Boudreaux’s Crawfish on the package. It’s from Vietnam, China or wherever. They ship it here and it gets tested and is found to have a chemical not allowed for human consumption in the United States. They shut it down and Boudreaux’s Cajun Crawfish can’t import any more crawfish to the United States. The foreign producer goes to plan B and its now Chautin’s Southern Crawfish. It’s the same stuff in a different package.
“This would keep them from shell-gaming us.”
Higgins said he understands that some special interests will stand in the way of his bill becoming law.
“I don’t care about that, quite frankly,” Higgins said. “I have stood against big money trucking, sugar, and airline industry. I will stand against big money if I feel it is the right thing. I am not anti-big money. I am just pro-American. The seafood bill that I have introduced is going to see some push-back.”
Higgins said he will continue to push because the end result would be better opportunities for the people he represents.
“Where does fair play come in?,” Higgins asked. “I say that if you import seafood into America, you should be held to the same standards as American producers.”