GOVERNOR SIGNS CATFISH LABELING BILL
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Alabama consumers will soon know where catfish served in restaurants is produced, thanks to a bill that passed the Legislature during the final days of the regular session and was signed by Gov. Bob Riley this week.
HB 473, sponsored by Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Demopolis, passed the Senate by a 30-1 vote. The bill will require country-of-origin labeling of catfish served in restaurants.
About two dozen catfish producers traveled to Montgomery on the next-to-last day of the legislative session to make a final push for passage of the bill. In recent years, imported catfish from Vietnam and China has flooded the U.S. market despite repeatedly testing positive for chemicals and antibiotics banned in this country.
"The passage of this bill was a victory for Alabama catfish producers as well as consumers," said Alabama Farmers Federation Catfish Director Mitt Walker. "Representative McCampbell's tireless support of this bill was critical to working through concerns raised by opponents and securing passage in the House. Sen. Lowell Barron was instrumental in getting the bill on the Senate calendar, and Sen. Bobby Singleton's support helped ensure an overwhelming positive vote."
The new labeling requirements will take effect in August, which coincidentally is National Catfish Month.
Riley told the Associated Press he believes the catfish bill is responsive to the wishes of most consumers.
"Most people in Alabama would like to know if this came from a foreign country or it was grown in America," Riley said.
Research conducted by the Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of Alabama Farmers Federation, is consistent with the governor's belief. According to a recent survey, 97 percent of Alabamians support country-of-origin labeling for catfish served in restaurants.
The Alabama Department of Public Health, which is charged with enforcing the labeling standards, will have to develop rules related to the new law and will likely request comments from the public.
To make compliance easier and less costly, Alabama Catfish Producers has agreed to provide free signs, menu stickers and table tents to restaurants serving U.S. farm-raised catfish. Alabama is the nation's second-largest producer of farm-raised catfish.