State officials, catfish farmers and others were on hand for a catfish appreciation luncheon at the Farmers Market Cafe in Montgomery Aug. 22. During the Alabama Catfish Producers-sponsored luncheon, Gov. Robert Bentley officially declared August as “Catfish Month” in Alabama.
Bentley presented the official proclamation to Alabama Catfish Producers Chairman Will Pearce of Dallas County.
Bentley vowed to do what he can to help catfish farmers and said he wants to promote Alabama’s catfish industry through the State Department of Tourism and Travel.
“We want the people of Alabama to understand the importance of catfish and what it means to Alabama — all the jobs associated with it, the lives affected by this industry, and the enjoyment people can get out of eating these good farm-raised catfish,” Bentley said.
Alabama Farmers Federation Catfish Division Director Rick Oates said he was pleased by the outpouring of support the state’s catfish industry received during the event.
“This was a great day for Alabama’s catfish farmers,” said Oates. “Alabama catfish production and processing have a combined economic impact of around $500 million annually, and it’s great to see our farmers’ efforts are appreciated.”
During the proclamation ceremony, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan saluted catfish farmers and processors who provide healthy, affordable food. He noted that while the industry is profitable, farmers need continued support to remain successful.
“Catfish growers and processors in Alabama need our support… not only this month, but as we move into the future,” McMillan said.
McMillan said catfish farmers are facing tough times as fuel and feed prices continue to increase and foreign competition threatens the viability of U.S. farm-raised catfish.
Alabama Catfish Producers Chairman Will Pearce said the event was a great way to bring attention to the availability of U.S. farm-raised catfish and said every person can help support farmers like him.
“Be aware of what you’re buying when you go to the grocery stores and restaurants,” Pearce said. “Pay attention to country-of-origin labeling, and help us spread the word about what a safe product U.S. farm-raised catfish is to feed your family.”
The luncheon was sponsored by the Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation; Harvest Select; SouthFresh; and Heartland.
Catfish farms in the state are heavily concentrated in the Black Belt Region of west Alabama. Nationally, Alabama ranks second in catfish sales; however, the amount of U.S.-raised catfish has declined nearly 50 percent since 2003.