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Serving Alabama Aquaculture

Rick Oates
(800) 392-5705, ext. 4305

Derry Bone — Alabama's Catfish Farmer of the Year (2013)
Founded in 1974, Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of Alabama Farmers Federation, is composed of fish farmers across the state involved in aquaculture. The dictionary calls "aquaculture" the science of raising water-based animals in a controlled environment. Consumers call it a great way to produce one of the tastiest and highest-quality fish around - genuine U.S. farm-raised catfish. And Alabama fish farmers call it a way of life - something they love doing and are proud of it.

Alabama has around 22,000 water acres of fish farms where nearly 200 commercial farmers produce 25 different aquatic species. Farm-raised catfish is by far the dominant species, with Alabama ranking second in the U.S. in annual catfish sales. Alabama farmers currently produce well over 100 million pounds of catfish per year, and Alabama still has the land and water resources to support an industry 10 times its current size.

With increasing stringent catch limitations, domestic wild harvest is not expected to expand significantly in the near future, and the oil spill in the Gulf further complicates this issue. With the ever-growing world population, if the worldwide demand for fish protein is to be met, it will come from aquaculture. Thirty years ago, almost 90 percent of all the seafood consumed came from "capture fisheries" with only 10 percent coming from aquaculture. The consumption from aquaculture is currently projected to be 30 percent. Simply put, the word is "OUT" that aquaculture is "IN". For more details about catfish statistics in Alabama, visit the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service.

Goals and Issues

Goals of the Alabama Catfish Producers are determined by a 12-member state committee, which is elected by other producers throughout the state. Issues and challenges facing producers are evaluated each year, and priority is placed on each to determine a focus for the division's activities.

Goals include:
  • Work to maintain federal funding for the USDA-ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory at Auburn.
  • Continue to develop and unify a sound research base that will provide long-range support for the catfish industry.
  • Support the maximum enforcement of truth-in-labeling laws and explore possibilities for legislation requiring truth-in-labeling on restaurant menus.
  • Seek funding for the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture at Auburn University
  • Monitor EPA and ADEM plans regarding effluent guidelines and, if necessary, work with producers, industry leaders and state and federal agencies to establish reasonable standards based on BMPs.
  • Monitor any proposed "safe dam" legislation that may resurface.
  • Continue to seek approvals for new therapeutic compounds for fish health.
  • Continue to work with CFA and congressional delegation to address ongoing problems with Asian fish imports.
  • Sponsor the annual Alabama Catfish Producers Scholarship Program through the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University.
  • Administer the catfish checkoff program.
  • Promote August Catfish Month.
  • Support funding for the USDA Wildlife Services Agency.
  • Vigorously support aquaculture as a vital and viable segment of agriculture.

Helping farmers address everyday problems is a key part of our mission. As new challenges appear, Alabama Catfish Producers is poised to address those for the good of its producer members.

Activities and Programs

  • Through the Alabama Catfish Producers, work with Auburn University's Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures and other institutions to determine research needs for catfish producers and seek funding for additional catfish research needs.
  • Encourage membership and participation in Catfish Farmers of America and the Alabama Catfish Producers.
  • Encourage maximum enforcement of Alabama's aquaculture laws.
  • Cooperate with all organizations, agencies, institutions and associations interested in further enhancing aquaculture development.
  • Promote Alabama's catfish industry through trade shows, exhibits and state and county fairs.
  • "Vigorously support the Alabama Fish Farming Center located in Greensboro, Ala.
  • Work with other states and industry segments in formulating a unified position on grower and general industry issues.
  • Utilize legislative and congressional contacts and coordinate legislative and regulatory efforts through Alfa Famers.
  • Distribute routine news releases to TV, radio and print media on issues and activities within the industry.
  • Participate in the numerous industry grower meetings throughout the year.
  • Support the National Association of State Aquaculture Coordinators
  • Hold periodic "Catfish Industry Update" meetings
  • Conduct educational tours of the industry.
  • Support the "Ag Classic" and "Ag Roundup."

Checkoff Program

Created in 1986 by an act of the Alabama Legislature, the Alabama Catfish Producers' checkoff is a voluntary program that allows producers to assess themselves 50-cents per ton on feed bought, sold or manufactured in Alabama. This method of collection at the catfish feed mill enables the checkoff fund to receive revenue at one point in the production cycle with the least number of units (feed mills) and to equitably assess all producers.

These funds, collected by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, are remitted to the Alabama Catfish Producers quarterly, and by law, can only be spent on education, research and promotion. Any increase or decrease in revenue is directly contributed to feed sales and industry growth. Feed sales in Alabama have gone from 24,000 tons in 1986 to more than 200,000 tons in 2005, an indication of how the industry has grown. The majority of the funds collected go to fund catfish research at Auburn University's Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures. For information regarding research projects funded as well as other projects, please contact the Alabama Catfish Producers.

Catfish Farmers of America is the trade association that represents catfish farmers across the U.S. Its trade publication is The Catfish Journal. Alabama Catfish Producers is able to utilize the resources of the Alabama Farmers Federation dealing with legislative matters.

The organization also works closely with the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University, USDA Agricultural Research Service Aquatic Animal Health Research Unit and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System to determine research needs and provide information for Alabama producers.

Fajitas are usually served with beef or chicken, but this recipe subs Alabama farm-raised catfish as the protein. Get the recipe in the Federation's new cookbook at FarmingFeedsAlabama.com.

Terrific Taste

Catfish can be prepared in thousands of delicious and nutritious ways. From Classic Fried Catfish to an elegant Almond-Crusted Catfish, there's a recipe that will please even the most discriminating palate. Click Here For Free Catfish Recipes.

Alabama Farmers Federation at Work for Alabama Producers

As a part of Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Catfish Producers is represented at the state and national levels through departments of Governmental Affairs and National Affairs. The Department of Public Relations provides communications about important issues and notices through its monthly magazine, Neighbors, and biweekly newsletter, Cultivator.

The Local Connection

County Farmers Federations, with the assistance of Area Organization Directors, provide support and a mechanism to address issues on the local level. Herein lies the strength of Alabama Farmers Federation. Each county may establish its own Catfish Committee. Needs and requests from producers in the county are the beginning of policy development and the direction of Alabama Catfish Producers. You may contact your county Catfish Chairman, or if none currently exists, the Area Organization Director in your region or your County President for more information.

Why Should I be a Member of Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Catfish Producers?

The Alabama Farmers Federation brings farmers of all commodities together for a common cause. Together, we can accomplish more for everyone's benefit. The more producers actively participating in Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Catfish Producers, the more effective the organization can be on issues affecting them. With membership in the Alabama Farmers Federation, comes many benefits.

Related Links

The Catfish Institute

Aquaculture Information Center

The Catfish Marketing Association

Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service.

Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures
Directory of State Aquaculture Coordinators and Contacts

Harvest Select Catfish

Southern Regional Aquaculture Center

Heartland Catfish

SouthFresh Farms

Did you know?

  • Alabama's catfish production is second only to Mississippi.
  • Alabama's three large-scale processors sell catfish to all 50 states, Canada, Europe and Asia.
  • In 2005 Alabama feed mills produced more than 200,000 tons of catfish feed for the first time.
  • Eight percent of all fresh water in the lower 48 states originates or passes through Alabama.
  • Alabama farmers produce approximately 25 different aquatic species.
  • Alabama is home to the world's largest catfish processing plant.

For more information, contact Rick Oates, Director of Alabama Catfish Producers, P.O. Box 11000, Montgomery, AL 36191-0001. Phone: (800) 392-5705, ext. 4305.

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